Your toddler doesn't know, or care, that learning shapes sets the foundation for learning math concepts later in life. He's just proud when he learns to identify the different shapes. Build on his enthusiasm by taking him outside for a lesson in finding and naming shapes. Shapes are everywhere your toddler looks, and being outside gives him time to be physically active while he learns. Do the activities with him, and you'll have an excuse to skip your workout later.
Set out on a shape hunt with your toddler. As you walk, ask your toddler to find a circle, triangle or square. When he points out a shape to you, show him another one and talk about the characteristics of the shape such as pointy corners or straight lines. Repeat the activity with more shapes. Take your toddler to the playground and see if he can find shapes as he climbs, swings and slides. Ask him to point out shapes as you walk through the parking lot to make running errands more fun for both of you.
Get out a bucket of sidewalk chalk and sit down with your toddler. Show her how to draw a circle; then give her a piece of chalk and ask her to draw another one. Keep drawing different shapes as long as your toddler is interested. Make the activity more fun by giving the shapes eyes, noses, mouths, ears, arms and legs, or turn them into monsters, princesses, pirates or fairies.
Get your toddler closer to nature by using objects found outside to create shapes. Gather a bunch of short sticks and use them to make squares, rectangles and triangles. Collect rocks and use them to make circles and hearts. Make beautiful shapes by using flowers or flower petals. Take pictures of the shapes your child makes, develop the photos or print them on your home printer, and use them to practice identifying shapes in the future.
Before heading outside, cut out several shapes from colored paper. Make the shapes big enough that your toddler can stand on them. Include a variety of shapes in several colors. Go outside and lay the shapes out on a flat surface. Ask your child to stand behind the shapes and jump to the shape as you call them out. Yell out "red circle," "blue triangle" or "yellow heart." As you say the shapes, encourage your child to jump to the right one. Repeat the game several times, and he'll brush up on his color skills too.