Your kids enjoy playing with a sphere at the beach.

Three Dimensional Figure Activities for Children

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

Your little one prefers to work with three-dimensional objects, such as balls, blocks and dolls than their two-dimensional paper representations. “Those are just fakes,” she says when comparing two dimensions to three. She lives in a three-dimensional world and enjoys working hands-on to understand how geometric figures work. You can offer interesting activities for your preschooler using various common, inexpensive substances and items.


Clay is a versatile medium to teach your little one about 3D figures such as spheres, prisms, cubes, pyramids, cones and cylinders. He can shape the clay to create any of these shapes, and gain fine and gross motor control in the process. Salt clay offers an elastic, durable, safe medium using ingredients you have in your kitchen. Mix 1/2 cup of salt and 1 1/3 cups of flour in a bowl and slowly add 1/3 cup of water as you stir the mix with a spoon. Your child will enjoy kneading the clay into a pliable blob. He can use his hands, rolling pins, cookie cutters and craft sticks to shape the clay and then decorate the shapes after they dry.

Hide and Seek

Your home contains many common 3D objects, and your little one can seek them out in a scavenger hunt. She can spot spheres in her balls, your snow globes and balls on your Christmas tree. Cubes and rectangular prisms hide in her toy box among the blocks, boxes and geometric pattern shapes. Cylinders and prisms are plentiful in your kitchen cabinets. At Valentine’s Day, she can find 3D hearts full of sweetness. Give her a sheet of paper with the 2D representations and invite her to start looking.

Paper Constructs

While your little one may prefer solid objects, he can create three-dimensional objects using paper. Provide plenty of paper with both blank and printed outlines to fold. He can create a box and use it to give you a gift or fold an origami figure. A cardboard roll becomes the foundation for a puppet, or he can create a similar construct using rolled paper taped into a cylinder or cone. Add buttons, beads, yarn, empty thread spools and polystyrene peanuts to decorate his paper construct with more three-dimensional shapes, using supervision at all times.


Your little one might be a budding architect. Pull out the blocks and challenge her to build a building or other construction figure. Talk about how shapes fit together to form other shapes, such as a cylinder and a cone form a silo or a cube and a pyramid form a house. Provide pebbles and cabochons with clay to discuss how some cultures without wood build homes to live in or how Native Americans built teepees from poles and flat hides.


About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images