Activity 4: The Shape of Things

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Often, we begin teaching children about shapes by teaching them the shape name, but they need hands-on experiences with solid shapes (balls, boxes, bottles, cans, party hats) to learn about their physical characteristics. By using materials to build shapes, children learn about these characteristics.

Numbers & Shapes: Activity 4

shapeofthingsBenefits for Your Child:

  • Helps describe the environment
  • Identifies attributes or characteristics of shapes
  • Develops the sense of shape

Often, we begin teaching children about shapes by teaching them the shape name. Children can easily learn the names of basic geometric shapes such as circle, square, triangle or rectangle. They need hands-on experiences with solid shapes (balls, boxes, bottles, cans, party hats) to learn about their physical characteristics. By using materials to build shapes, children learn about these characteristics such as angles, size, number of sides and movement (roll, slide, or stack). This skill not only improves their understanding of geometry around them, but also establishes a basis for further learning of measurement concepts related to perimeter and area.

Kindergarten Connection tooltip

If children do not have an understanding of the physical characteristics of shapes, they may have a hard time relating a solid shape to a drawing of that shape. Becoming familiar with the characteristics of various shapes will help children understand the properties of the shapes. In kindergarten, they will name and draw shapes and later, in school, work more with shapes.

Activity: Shape Sculptures

Show your child the materials and ask what he/she would like to build. Have him/her insert sticks into play-dough and connect several segments to build objects. Ask your child to describe the shapes he/she has made. The purpose of this activity is for children to explore shapes, not focus on specific geometric shapes.

Materials:

  • Sticks such as flat toothpicks, pretzel sticks, dry spaghetti, drinking straws
  • Small balls of play-dough, marshmallows, or raisins

More Ideas:

  • Make shapes with a theme: animals, furniture, toys.
  • Break the sticks into different sizes.
  • Use wire as a building material.
  • Make a drawing of the sculptures.
  • Have your child use his/her body to form the shape of the sculpture.

Tips:

  • If your child only makes one shape, consider playing along by starting a different type of sculpture then asking your child to help finish it.
  • If your child wants to keep the sculpture “forever,” consider taking a photograph.
  • It is typical for your child to want to sample the materials.

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Books: The Shape of Things

The Shape of Me and Other Stuff by Dr. Seuss. Children discover that there are more shapes than just squares and circles.

Shapes, Shapes All Over the Place by Janie Gill. Uses a child's curiosity to find shapes.

Architecture Counts by Michael Crosbie. Illustrations of various architectural details introduce the numbers one through ten.

Complete Book List