Shapes For Kids: The Complete Parents’ Guide To Teaching Shapes

by | May 14, 2022 | Core Skills

The world around us is made up of many different shapes, angles, and colors! Before they can even speak, your child has probably already noticed these things. Because shapes are a fundamental part of our world, it’s important for children to develop shape expertise even at young ages.

Teaching your child shapes is more than just helping them understand what a circle, triangle, or octagon is. Recognizing and understanding the special attributes of shapes is an essential skill that prepares kids for more advanced learning.

So, what can you do to help your child develop this skill?

First, remember that helping your child learn something new shouldn’t be a mundane activity. The more enjoyable and exciting learning is, the more your child is likely to engage.

In this article, we’ll share 10 fun activities that you can try at home to help make learning shapes both educational and entertaining for your child

But before we get to that, let’s take a look at what makes shapes so important for kids’ development.

Why Are Shapes Key To Development?

Kid playing with blocks to learn shapes for kids

1) Math

When we teach children shapes, we help lay a foundation for basic math skills. They will then be able to use these skills when tackling more complex math concepts in the future.

For instance, geometry is a branch of mathematics that is, in part, the study of shapes.

Understanding the basic attributes of different shapes from an early age can help your child grasp other geometric concepts as they get older.

Working with shapes can also help preschoolers learn to count (as they discover how many sides different shapes have). Counting will help them when they get older and start adding, subtracting, and learning other math skills.

2) Letter Recognition

Learning shapes to help build a solid math foundation may seem obvious to many people. But how does it help with literacy?

Let’s think for a second about some of the letters of the alphabet. We know that “O” looks like a circle, and the letter “V” looks like a triangle that’s missing a side.

When a child can distinguish between different shapes, it may be easier for them to recognize the various forms of letters. As a result, learning different shapes may help with early childhood reading and writing.

In addition to helping with letter recognition, knowing shapes can help kids learn the many road signs and symbols everywhere around us — stop signs, yield signs, and so on.

In fact, when your child learns to read signs by sight, they’re developing their reading skills, and in this way, shapes and literacy go hand in hand.

3) Characterization And Comparison

When a child learns that a triangle has three sides, a square has four equal sides, and so forth, it encourages them to concentrate on the characteristics of each shape.

As they apply their growing knowledge of basic shapes, they will have the foundation needed to analyze more complicated figures when they get older. And that is a skill they’ll use throughout their entire life.

Questions like, “What makes a rectangle different from a square?” will help develop their observational skills as well as their ability to compare and contrast.

Here are a few other questions you can ask to help your child begin to make comparisons between shapes:

  • How is a circle different from an oval?
  • What makes a square different from a triangle?
  • How is the heart different from the triangle?

Though they seem simple, these questions help your child analyze and think about what they’re seeing.

4) Problem-Solving

Learning shapes for kids can help introduce problem-solving skills.

For instance, when playing with shape-sorting toys, your child must identify the different characteristics of a triangle so they can then match it with the triangle hole in the toy.

This skill can also help with putting together puzzles. A child will have to pay attention to the shape of the piece they’re holding and the openings in the puzzle to determine which part fits where.

Learning how to problem-solve with shapes has lifelong benefits. Though you probably don’t think about it, you likely use this knowledge regularly.

For example, when you’re looking for a lid to fit a certain container, do you bother grabbing a rectangular one to fit a circular container? No, you use what you know about geometry to find the right one.

When you’re making a bed, what happens if you put the sheet on the wrong way? It won’t fit. You have to use what you know about rectangles to make sure the sheet is on the bed correctly.

These are just a couple of examples. You can probably think of even more ways that you use the shape of something to help you solve a problem. The bottom line is learning about shapes can help your child develop problem-solving skills that can last a lifetime.

Different Types Of Shapes For Kids To Learn

Young girl playing with shapes for kids

When teaching shapes for kids, it’s important to know what to start with and, as your child understands the basics, which shapes they can master next. Let’s take a look!

1) Basic 2D Shapes (For Beginners)

  • Circles
  • Squares
  • Rectangles
  • Triangles

2) Advanced 2D Shapes (For Kindergarteners)

  • Hearts
  • Arrows
  • Stars
  • Semi-circles
  • Ovals

Shapes For Kids: 10 Fun Activities

1) Mini-Tangram Puzzle

Tangrams are geometric puzzles with triangles, a square, and a parallelogram. Your child can use those shapes to make many others.

What You’ll Need

What To Do

This fun tangram puzzle helps children piece shapes together like pros!

Start by cutting out the different shapes that you’ll see on page one of the printable. Then, use the outline on page two to demonstrate to your child where the pieces need to fit.

After showing them, let them practice on their own! Once they’ve mastered this activity, you can have them complete the puzzle using only the border on page three.

This activity helps children understand the concepts of shapes, problem-solving, symmetry, angles, and comparisons.

2) PlayDoh Shapes

kid holding different colored Playdough in hands

Hands-on learning is beneficial for kids. So, let them take what they’ve learned about shapes and practice it with PlayDoh.

What You’ll Need

  • PlayDoh
  • A laminated sheet of paper with outlines of different shapes (if you don’t have a laminator, you can also use clear plastic sleeves made for binders and place the paper inside them)

What To Do

Using the soft PlayDoh, help your little one fill the shape outlines on your paper. Remember to highlight the names of the different figures as you work through them.

Sensory activities like these are an excellent way to help children engage with what they are learning. Also, the laminated paper or plastic sleeves will make it easy to clean up when playtime is done!

3) The Tray Memory Game

Mom playing a shape game with her daughter

Essential skills, such as concentration, memory, following directions, and critical thinking, are crucial to successful learning. This game helps your child practice these skills naturally.

What You’ll Need:

  • A tray
  • Different pre-cut shapes

What To Do:

Place three shapes at a time on the tray. Show your child the shapes and describe the characteristics of each one. For instance, “This is a square. A square has four equal sides.”

After showing and describing the shapes, cover the tray with a cloth and take one of the shapes away. When you reveal the tray again (now with two shapes), ask your child to tell you which figure is missing.

Besides helping your child learn the properties of different shapes, this game helps test and improve their memory.

4) Match The Pattern

Recognizing patterns and continuing them is an essential skill for your child to learn. This game makes it fun.

What You’ll Need:

  • A sheet of paper
  • A pair of scissors
  • Different colored pens or crayons to draw with

What To Do:

Draw a few different shapes on paper, making sure to draw two of each shape. After drawing the various shapes, cut out only one of each pair (for example, if you have two circles, cut out one and leave the other).

Now, hand the cutouts to your child and ask them to match the shapes they are holding to the missing spaces in the paper.

This activity can help kids grasp the concept of understanding patterns and lay the foundation for logical thinking.

5) Detective Role Play

Young boy searching clues from a book with a magnifying glass
little boy detective searching clues from books

This active play game teaches your child to look for shapes in the environment. It also helps them practice listening, deducting, and other logic-based skills.

What You’ll Need:

  • Crayons
  • Notebook

What To Do:

Select any two objects from around your home that have the same shape but look different. Don’t tell your child what they are yet.

Then, explain to them that they are a detective and need to solve an important shape mystery. Give your child some clues about the shape of the object so that they can solve the mystery. For example, “It has three sides.”

When your child feels confident that they know what the object is, ask them to draw it in their detective notebook.

Now, give them clues for the second object. After finding and drawing it into their notebook, it’s time to evaluate the two different items. Discuss how many other objects have the same shape.

Play the game again with another shape. You can also head outside to search for shapes around the neighborhood!

Here’s more on this fun game from our activity center.

6) Make A Shape Collage

This crafty activity allows your child to look for similarities and differences between shapes. It’s a fun way to help them use another part of their brain.

What You’ll Need:

  • Two sheets of white paper
  • Two colored sheets of paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick

What To Do:

From one colored sheet of paper, cut out different styles of the same shape (for instance, a right-angled triangle, an obtuse triangle, and an acute triangle). Then, cut out various styles or sizes of another shape (a small, medium, and large circle).

Now, ask your child to make a collage of the same shapes on each sheet of white paper.

This activity will help your child understand the true characteristics of each shape. They’ll see that even though the three triangles look different, the fact that they each have three sides makes them all triangles!

7) Shape I Spy

Driving through the city playing I Spy to learn shapes for kids

Shapes are all around! With a simple twist, the classic childhood game of “I Spy” can help reinforce lessons about shapes for kids.

What You’ll Need:

Nothing — You can play this game anywhere, making it perfect for on-the-road learning.

What To Do:

Look around and find something in your environment that’s made up of a shape. Tell your child, “I spy with a (name your shape) with my little eye.”

For instance, if you’re thinking of the sewer cover on the street, you’d say, “I spy a circle with my little eye.”

Then, have your child look around and try to figure out what you’re thinking of nearby. For example, they might ask if it’s a wheel on a car or the bullseye symbol on a Target store across the street.

If your child gets the right shape but doesn’t guess the object correctly, you can say, “ That’s a circle, but it’s not the circle I’m thinking of. Can you spy another one?”

If your child guesses something that’s the wrong shape, you can say, “That’s a different shape. I’m thinking of something that’s a circle like this,” and then draw the shape in the air to help remind them what the object looks like.

Continue until your child correctly guesses the object. Then, ask them to pick a shape so you can try to guess. Alternate turns until your child begins to lose interest.

8) Sort The Shapes

Sorting and classifying are critical skills for your child to master. This activity helps them practice sorting in a lighthearted way.

What You’ll Need:

  • Construction paper
  • A sandwich bag (or similar)
  • Scissors
  • A piece of paper
  • A marker

What To Do:

Use the scissors to cut various shapes from several colors of construction paper. As you’re cutting shapes, make some large and some small. Aim for a nice mix of shapes and sizes.

Then, use the marker to draw a vertical line down the middle of a piece of paper. This is your game board.

Once everything is ready, spread the shapes out in front of your child. Next, grab a triangle and put it on one side of your prepared board. Put a square on the other side.

Ask your child if they can continue sorting the shapes for you.

Leave any shapes that don’t get used on the side. Then, when your child has sorted everything, ask how they decided where to put each shape. Being able to express their thinking in words is a communication skill your child needs.

Once you’ve had a chance to hear their thoughts, clear the game board. Ask your child if they can sort the shapes a different way. Give them a chance to think about it and watch them sort. If they have trouble, you can use guided questions to help them.

Asking, “Why did you put that shape there?” or “Why didn’t you use that shape?” can help your child’s critical thinking skills.

While your child can likely think of lots of ways to sort the shapes, here are a few suggestions:

  • Size
  • Type of line (curvy or straight)
  • Number of sides
  • Color

You can put the shapes into the bag when your child finishes. That way, you can pull them out to play another day.

9) Exploring Shapes Through Letters

Kid playing with paper shapes creating camera and hat

What You’ll Need:

  • HOMER Explore Letters Kit

What To Do:

Set up the box so the magnetic background with the letters is ready for playing. Then, spread out the magnetic uppercase letters in front of your child.

Ask them to look carefully at the letters. See if they can find any that have a circle or part of a circle on them. When they find one, show them how to stick it to the background.

Keep looking through the pile with your child to find all of the circular pieces. Then, count the letters on the board. How many did they find?

After you count them, take the letters off the background and ask your child to find any letters with part of a triangle on them.

Have them continue finding the letters that fit the description you give. Then, ask questions like these to help them think about letters and shapes.

  • What shapes are in the letters of your name?
  • Are there more letters with circle shapes or more letters with triangle shapes?
  • How many letters almost have a rectangle in them?

As your child gets better at recognizing the shapes in letters, it’ll help them learn to identify each letter by its unique shape. They can use this knowledge as they play with the other components in our Explore Letters Kit.

10) Shape Hunt

Kids playing hide and seek

Can your child find the shapes you’ve hidden around the room? They’ll have to look carefully!

What You’ll Need:

  • A piece of paper
  • Scissors
  • A pen

What To Do:

With the pen, draw five shapes that your child knows on a piece of paper. Try to make them as large as possible. Then, cut them out.

Once you have the shapes, have your child go to a different room. Hide the cutouts around the room you’re in in easy or difficult spots, depending on their age and experience.

When all five shapes are hidden, call your child back. Ask them to look around the room and find the shapes you hid. If they spot a shape, ask them to bring it to you and tell you which one they found.

After your child finds all five shapes, quickly review them by having them say the name of each one again.

You can have your child hide shapes for you or an older sibling to find as well. This activity is a fun way to work on shape identification together.

Also, as your child looks around the room, they’ll be practicing their observation skills. As they get better at this game, you can slowly increase the difficulty of your hiding spots so that the game grows with them.

It’s Time For Shapes For Kids!

Family playing Jenga

Learning shapes for kids can help your child develop many essential skills, including math, letter recognition, and problem-solving. These are all key elements to setting your child up for success on their learning journey.

While teaching your young learner shapes, remember to emphasize the names of every shape. Kids tend to remember the shape types but forget what they are called.

In addition to just teaching your child shapes, remember to relate them to the surrounding objects. When discussing the oval characteristics, show them an egg. Or when you talk about a circle, show them the shape of a full pizza.

As your child plays with the different parts of our Explore Letters Kit, talk about the shapes that make up each letter. Integrating shapes into other subjects helps your child connect them with the real world.

The world around us is full of interesting shapes, many of which your young learner has likely already seen. Now, it’s time to help them make sense of it all!


  • Begin Learning Team

    Parents hear so much noise about what matters–it’s hard to know where to begin. That’s where we come in. We are early learning experts & PhDs helping you focus on what matters most for your child.

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Begin Learning Team
Begin Learning Team

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Parents hear so much noise about what matters–it’s hard to know where to begin. That’s where we come in. We are early learning experts & PhDs helping you focus on what matters most for your child.