Doing creative learning activities with shapes for preschoolers is a great way for them to learn shape recognition while having fun. When kids start kindergarten, they need to recognize, identify and trace the basic shapes: circles, squares, triangles, and rectangles. More advanced early learners may be able to print the shape names independently.
Why do children need to learn about shapes? Shape recognition is a basic pre-math skill (think down the road to geometry), and learning shapes sharpens children’s visual discrimination skills and teaches them to understand spatial relationships better.
When they trace around the letters of the shape names or reproduce the shapes themselves, they are exercising pre-writing skills.
Edible Activity With Shapes for Preschoolers
Kids love edible crafts. Most of the time some adult is cautioning them not to play with their food, so being allow to play with food is a novelty.
Running a close second to being told not to play with food is being told “Don’t put that in your mouth!” Consequently, when they get the eat the food they have been playing with, they feel like they are getting away with something forbidden.
What You Need
One piece of bread, one piece of American cheese, and one piece of turkey bologna or any round cheese or meat for each child. Put all the bread slices on one plate, all the cheese slices on another plate, and the meat on a separate plate. You’ll also need:
- One jar of pimento-stuffed olives
- Paper plates
- Plastic knifes
- Small, round cookie cutters or dosing cups from liquid medicines
- Note: Plastic knifes are usually safe for preschoolers to use under adult supervision.
What To Do
Have the children wash and dry their hands and then sit at a table. Give each child a paper plate and plastic knife. Pass the bread plate and instruct each child to take one piece and put it on their plate.
Do the first task (see #1 below), and then pass the cheese plate and allow each child to take one slice. Do the second task (#2). Repeat the process with the third plate and then do task #3. Demonstrate each of the following tasks to kids and then encourage them to do them.
Task 1: Use the plastic knife to trim the crusts off the bread to form a square.
Teaching Points: Point out the four corners and the four sides of the square. After the kids make their squares, ask them to point to the corners of the bread and count them out loud. Repeat by instructing them to count the sides.
Task 2: Unwrap the cheese and discard the plastic packaging. Use the knife to cut across the cheese diagonally to form two triangles. Put one of the triangles at the top of the bread square (to make a hat).
Teaching Points: Point out the three corners and three sides of the triangle, and then have the children point and count the sides and corners. Ask them how many sides and corners the square had and compare those figures to the numbers for the triangle.
Task 2 (continued): Cut a small rectangle from the second triangle and set the remaining pieces aside for snacking later. Position the rectangle on the bread square to form a mouth.
Teaching Points: Tell them rectangles have four sides and corners just like the square. They are similar in shape but they are not the same. Explain the difference. (Rectangles have two short sides and two long sides; all four sides of a square are the same size.)
Task 3: Let the children take turns using round cookie cutters or plastic medicine cups to cut out two small circles (eyes) from the bologna. Place the eyes on the bread/cheese face.
Teaching Points: Ask the following:
- How many corners do circles have? (none)
- How many corners? (none)
- What do circles look like? (The letter “O”)
- Ask them make circles in the air with their fingers.
Give each child a couple of olives. Show them how to slice them thinly to make tiny circles. Place the smaller circles on the larger circles. Let them eat their shape sandwiches and leftovers of the bread, meat and cheese.
Shape Activities for Home and Classroom
Pick one of the activities below. Use the activity as you go about your daily routine at home or in the classroom to help preschoolers learn to recognize basic shapes and remember what they learned longer.
Shape of the Day
Trace or draw each of the basic shapes onto cardstock or sturdy paper, and then laminate each for durability. Put the shapes into a paper bag, and let preschoolers choose one each day to be the shape of the day.
All day long, encourage them to look for that shape while doing their day-to-day activities. For instance, if the shape of the day is a circle, talk about how the cereal bowl looks like a circle or cut oranges into circle-shapes instead of wedges when you fix a snack.
Read About Shapes
Get a variety of books about shapes from your local library. Each day, let your preschooler pick one of these books. Read it aloud and stop on each page that contains a shape or shapes. Encourage children to trace around the shapes with their fingertips, and say the name of the shape aloud.
Alternatively, read the book first to see which shapes are in it. Choose a shape – for example, a triangle – and ask children to clap their hands or touch their noses each time they see a triangle or hear you say the word “triangle” as you read the story.
Create a Shape
Provide children with a variety of art and craft media such as craft sticks, pipe cleaners, modeling clay or paper and markers, crayons or paints. Let them draw or create shapes as they choose from these materials.
The reason activities with shapes for preschoolers are such an effective teaching tool is because they engage all of a child’s five senses. They can touch and taste cheese triangles while they see how a piece of bread can be made into a square.
They hear the sounds the knife makes while cutting and smell the aromas of the different food items. This creates an interactive learning environment that helps them learn new materials (shape recognition) faster and retain the information longer. Hand-on activities like these also help develop pre-literacy skills, hand-to-eye coordination, and fine motor skills.
Shape sorting toy image courtesy of Claire Bloomfield / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Shape sandwich images by Donna Cosmato, copyright 2013, all rights reserved