Shapes are an important part of building math skills and are very useful for teaching colors as well. Aside from shape puzzles, I've been trying to come up with activities to help my children (a toddler and a preschooler) with their shapes and finally found a super easy, Montessori-inspired one using supplies I already had on-hand!
This activity is inspired by a pin I saw from A, Bee, C Preschool. They use the craft sticks around the outside of a shape cut out of paper. Mine is slightly different where I opted to print the shapes on construction paper and have them put the sticks on the lines of the shapes. Plus, I laminated them so they can trace the letter and numbers with a dry-erase marker.
(includes my affiliate links to Amazon)
- Colored craft sticks (where to buy)
- Construction paper
- Optional: laminator (where to buy – just $30!) and laminating pouches (where to buy) or contact paper (the link included is the one that I actually bought and love!)
- Optional: thin Sharpie marker to write on the craft sticks
How To Use It
The Montessori Method
If you use the Montessori method like I do, then you would present the activity in a tray of some sort. You can buy some nice plastic trays (where to buy) on Amazon, or come up with other options like I did – baking pans at Wal-Mart for $2.88. I have our set of baking pans (smile) on IKEA shelves in our school room and the kids can pick and choose any tray they want. Once they are done with the activity, they must clean it up and put it back on the shelves (called the activity cycle).
The parent/teacher demonstrates how the activity is done one time, and then puts in on the shelf and lets the child decide when and if they even want to play with it, only getting help from the parent/teacher when they want it.
The reason this is a Montessori-inspired activity is because the child is using their hands to learn. Maria Montessori observed that children learn and remember best when they can engage their bodies in the activity.
- Learning shapes helps with pattern recognition, which is one of the basic building blocks of math.
- Have them place the corresponding color stick on the shape and count each stick (counting, also known as one-to-one correspondence).
- “Building” the shape with the sticks will help the concept stick in their minds – it's both visual and physical.
I've been learning from Marnie at Carrots are Orange (she's a trained Montessori teacher) that in the Montessori method, children learn to write their letters before they learn to read. Again, it's the idea that if they are using their bodies (in this case, their hands), they will learn much more quickly. So, if you laminate the shapes, your child can trace the number and letters with a dry-erase marker. This does take quite a lot of fine motor skill and probably won't be something a 3 or 4 year-old can tackle well (my 4 1/2 year old is starting to be able to trace small letters). So, just allow them to do their best, mostly just exposing them to the activity.
- Teach the colors of the shapes and the phonetic sounds in the words.
- Or just start with the letter that the shapes start with.
I wrote the name of the shape on the sticks, too, so my kids could build shapes with just the sticks and not have to use the shapes.