As your toddler becomes increasingly fascinated by the world around him, you might not think that simple activities with shapes can help him with social and emotional development, but they can -- especially faces that include various facial expressions. You can help him discover more about his world. Look at some basic shapes and relate them to familiar objects to help him learn their names and develop his emotional and social skills at the same time.
Faces always fascinate a toddler, but now she is starting to recognize different faces and the emotions associated with them. You can help develop this all-important socio-emotional skill by cutting a circle from card stock for her to draw her own face on -- maybe sticking on wool for hair. Talk about the color of her hair and eyes, and explain how she can use circles for eyes and a triangle for a nose. Use more circles to explore emotions by asking her, "How would you make this one a happy face? Can you turn this one into a sad face?" Cut out shapes from card stock, about 8 inches tall, and turn them into shape characters with names like Tim Triangle or Susie Square by drawing faces and gluing on rectangles for arms and legs.
Cut shapes from card stock for your toddler to glue in a shapes collage of familiar things in his world. Rectangles can become tall buildings and a square can be a house with a triangle for the roof. Animals and people can be created in the same way, with circles for heads and bodies, triangles for animal ears and oval shapes for limbs. If you have any spare pieces of fabric, you can cut shapes from these as well for added texture.
Create a matching game by cutting 30 shapes from paper or card stock -- about three inches high and a mix of circles, squares, triangles, rectangles and ovals. Mix them up and deal them like cards. Invite a few of his playgroup friends over and make a game of this. Take turns to put a shape down and if it matches the previous shape, shout its name. The person who shouts first wins all the shapes on the table. Keep going until one person wins all the shapes. It may be tempting, but don't always let her win as it is good for her to learn how to lose. Cut out five shapes, big enough for you both to stand on, and place them on the floor. Put your shape cards in a bag, take turns picking one and both race to stand on the corresponding shape on the floor.
Use paint and shapes to give your toddler a tactile -- but messy -- learning experience. Put some paint in a tray or on plates and show him how to trace different shapes into it using his finger. Explain things like: "Oooh, it feels whirly doing a circle." Or, "We have to move our finger in straight lines to make squares and triangles." Create some shape printers by cutting them out of thick slices of raw potato, old sponges or using household items that can be easily washed or thrown away such as plastic bottle lids and plastic toy bricks. Have him dip these in the paint and press them onto paper to create shape patterns.