Preschool Math Learning - Part 5 - 4 Everyday Ways to Learn About Shape & Form

28 January 2020

Preschool Math Learning - Part 5 - 3 Everyday Ways to Learn About Shape & Form

As early as 3 weeks of age, children begin to distinguish patterns of shape and form. By the age of five or six, your child will see differences among squares, triangles, and circles. Learning about shapes and form is just like learning to identify letters before writing their name. Your child must first be able to understand the basics-- to observe shapes and make comparisons between shapes before they can name shapes.  

With that in mind, here are 4 quick, everyday ways to encourage your preschooler's understanding of shapes and learn this important math skill as they grow:

  1. Focus on one shape at a time at first. For your 2’s just starting to learn about geometric shapes, it’s best to focus on one new shape at a time to avoid confusion. Once that new shape is understood, you can add other shapes and build upon their previous learning.
  2. Include shape names in your preschooler’s everyday life. Shapes are simply everywhere in your child’s world! For example, your everyday language can include statements like “See that cereal box. It’s a rectangle box.” or, “The clock is round.” rather than “That’s round.” It’s important to say, “Please put the book on the red, square table," rather than “Put it over there.” By using these kind of descriptive phrases in everyday life, both the object and its characteristic shape are made very clear to your preschooler. Our Chatty-do activities have more fun, active ways to to put objects and shapes together to support little one’s understanding of forms like: What triangles can you see today? and What kind of signs did you see?  
  3. As your child grasps basic shapes, add more fun details! Preschoolers usually recognize basic shapes, like circles, squares and triangles, at about 3 years of age. At this point, add more characteristics, such as size, texture, and number to the basic shapes in their world. For example, “That sure is a big, square, fuzzy quilt!” or, “Put the two blue rectangle blocks on the table.” For fun, ask your little one to describe the objects around them by shape with a few extra characteristics. And maybe even count how many words they used!
  4. Introduce complex shapes with 4-year-olds & up. Older preschoolers can go beyond the basics with complex shapes like hexagons, cylinders, ovals and diamonds. Again, it’s key to remember that these less common shapes need to be introduced after your preschooler has a firm grasp of the simple geometric shapes of circles, triangles, rectangles, and squares. Once they understand simple shapes, your child will have the foundation to understand and identify more complex shapes. For example, when you’re outside on a walk, first count the sides on a triangular yield sign: one, two, three. Then count the sides on an octagonal stop sign, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight! Or you could draw a diamond shape in the sand and share its name, rhombus, with your preschooler. Knowing these “big” math words will be both challenging and fun for your active learner to find as they explore the world!

You can find even more everyday ways to share shape and forms with your preschooler in our article, Learning Anywhere, Every Day- Life Is Shaping Up. Then, try these Math activities that focus on simple shapes, forms and fun: Circling Around and Shapely Paper Spirals.

This is the final part of our 5 part Preschool Math Learning series, so in case you missed it, here’s Part 1 - It Starts with Language - Grow Early Math Skills with Words. Each article is designed to easily empower you to support your preschooler’s math learning and skills in your everyday life. Most importantly, you can have fun seeing and learning about life’s many shapes together!

Were these ideas a fun way to encourage your preschooler's math learning? Feel free to tell us what you think right here.

Inspiration / photo credit goes to PollyDot’s image of honey bees. Find out more about why hexagons (not circles, squares or triangles) are the most useful and efficient shape for honey bees' hives from Washington State University’s Dr. Universe's answer right here!