6 PROVEN Ways To Teach Your Toddler Shapes (2023)
In early learning classrooms, teachers typically choose to teach shapes and colors first before numbers or the alphabet.
Why is that?
“It’s because color and shape are two very noticeable attributes of the world around us. Color and shape are ways children observe and categorize what they see. These very recognizable characteristics encourage children to define and organize the diverse world around them”. – Scholastic
For example, we have a bunch of colorful eggs currently around the house since it’s close to Easter. My son will see the eggs and say purple or oval every time he sees them.
We are surrounded by shapes! It only makes sense that this is the first subject that you are teaching your child.
Since I have been on the adventure of teaching shapes to both my kids,
I have come up with 6 PROVEN tips to teach your toddler shapes!
Tip #1. Play with toys!
When you walk down the toy aisle at Target, do you see your child’s eyes light up at all the different toys?
Most of the time, I try to distract my kids as we walk by this section!
But, all kidding aside, there are times throughout the year when I buy new toys. I especially love buying educational toys because children learn through play every day.
Here are SIX of the BEST shape toys I’ve come across for teaching your toddler!
Side note: Most of these toys don’t say the shapes out loud, so your involvement in playing with these toys is crucial for them to learn!
Toy #1: Melissa and Doug Shapes Chunky Puzzle
Melissa and Doug puzzles have worked wonders with my children. These puzzles are the first thing that I introduce when starting to teach things like shapes, alphabet, numbers, etc.
Hands-on learning is the way your child will learn best! By repeating these shapes daily, your child will start to pick up the names of the shapes.
Toy #2: Melissa and Doug Take-Along Shape-Sorter
Who doesn’t love a great on-the-go toy? I am always looking for great toys to take in the car, on long weekend trips in the hotel, or events where I know that my kids will be bored within 10 minutes :).
What makes this toy so great is that it packs up easy, and it’s small, so it’s easy to carry around!
Toy #3: Melissa and Doug Wooden Shape Sorting Clock
I love buying a toy that can be used for several years because you can work on different learning skills with it!
This clock is excellent for learning shapes, numbers, and how to tell time!
Toy #4: Shape Sponges
I like this toy because it’s different than the other ones that I mention. Plus, I love the fact that these sponges have handles, so it’s easy for little hands to hold and use them.
There’s only so many times that your child will want to play with the same puzzle, so adding in some different tools or toys will keep them engaged in the learning!
Toy #5: Play-Doh Shape and Learn Colors and Shapes
I don’t know about you, but my kids are obsessed with Play-Doh!
In this specific pack of Play-Doh cut-outs, there was an oval, circle, triangle, and square! These are great shapes to start with, especially for little ones!
Toy #6: Melissa and Doug 25 Wooden Shape Magnets
Does anyone else’s toddler enjoy pulling off all the refrigerator magnets at home? These magnets are also great, so you can get some cooking done in the kitchen while your little one is close by.
Tip #2. Repetition, repetition, repetition!
When you are trying to leave the house, how many times do you have to tell your kid(s) to get their shoes and jacket on before you go?
It seems like hundreds, right? That’s how I feel!
One day they will get it! But until then, I keep having to repeat the directions.
The same goes for learning shapes or any other new skill! Repeating the information, especially to toddlers, is crucial. Even though my son knows his shapes, I still spend at least 5 minutes a day playing with shape toys or checking for understanding, so he remembers the information.
Lucas can finally use stickers because he isn’t putting them in his mouth! This sticker book was a fun and cheap way to review shapes. The best part about this book is that the stickers are reusable!
It is exciting and engaging to also present it in different ways to kids so they don’t get bored with the same toy, which I will explain in the next section.
Tip #3: Shape Learning Activities
Think about how you learn best. If you are learning something new, do you like to use the same program, slide show, or worksheet?
I sure don’t!
Variety is crucial when teaching kids. You want to make sure they are not just memorizing one toy. By doing different activities every now and then, they will be eager to learn and excited to show you what they know.
Below are FOUR activities I’ve used with my kids!
Activity#1: Shape Pizza
You need the following items for this activity:
- Paper plate
- Construction paper
- Glue stick.
I pre-made all of the shapes, so this activity was ready to go for my kids. The best part about the project is you can let their creativity flow! You may have to help with the glue, so your house doesn’t become all sticky 🙂
Do you have a preschooler at home that would enjoy this too?
To differentiate for older kiddos, you can add in more complex shapes like hexagons, trapezoids, and pentagons. On the worksheet, I also added a question on how many sides each of the shapes have. As a bonus, my daughter worked on her handwriting as well by writing the number of each shape she had on her pizza and how many sides each shape has!
Click on the links below to get your FREE PDFs for this lesson!
Activity #2. Shape Sorting Suncatcher
You will need the following items for this activity: Contact paper and cardstock paper.
This activity did take some prep work, but the kids loved it because it was something different that we have never done before! It works on differentiation and sorting shapes.
I drew a circle, triangle, and square, cut them out using the contact paper, and placed an outlining of the shapes with cardstock paper to help with differentiation.
Then, I made smaller circles, triangles, and squares so they could place them on the contact paper.
Activity #3: Shape Jumping
To do this activity, all you need is sidewalk chalk!
It’s cold out where we live, so anytime that we can get outside, we take advantage of it! This activity is simple; all you have to do is draw a few shapes on the ground with sidewalk chalk. You ask your toddler to jump from shape to shape.
Does your older children want to get involved?
Every time I set up an activity for my son to do, my daughter is right there waiting to be part of the action. I try to differentiate the activities for her to make them a bit more challenging. In this case, I had my daughter work on shape patterns and drawing the shapes. These are two critical skills for her to have in Kindergarten.
Activity #4: Shape Mini-Eraser Worksheets
It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with mini-eraser activities.
I’m not ashamed to say that every time I walk into Target, I check their dollar section to see if there are new mini-erasers available. Anyone else with me on this one?
1. First, print my 7 FREE SHAPE MATS HERE!
2. If your toddler is learning shapes, make sure to talk about what shape you are building with them! When working with older ones, ask them to see if they know what shape it is and if they know how many sides it has!
3. Get out your mini erasers and have your child either use their fingers to place the erasers in the circles to make the shapes or use kid-friendly tweezers to pick up the erasers and place them on the circles to improve their fine motor skills!
4. With preschoolers, set up some erasers in a pattern and see if your little one can finish the entire shape in that pattern!
Tip #4: Focus on a few shapes at a time.
This picture is overwhelming to me; I can’t imagine how difficult it would be for a toddler to differentiate these shapes!
When teaching toddlers, you must start slow, or they won’t understand the information you’re presenting them. Choose one or two shapes to start.
The four easiest shapes for toddlers to learn are circle, square, triangle, and star.
I would start by teaching these to your toddler then move onto more complex shapes.
I did some research and saw that many school districts believe that a child should know these shapes before entering kindergarten: triangle, circle, square, rectangle, oval, star, diamond (rhombus), and heart.
You may want to remove certain shapes from toys or activities when you are teaching, so your toddler can focus on the one you are trying to teach.
Check for understanding to see if they can differentiate between the shapes you started with to see if you can move onto other shapes!
Tip #5: Check for Understanding
I feel like I am always talking to my son. I am either identifying something to him or asking him questions to see what he knows throughout the day.
He is probably so annoyed with me, but luckily he can’t verbalize it to me yet 🙂
Checking for understanding is crucial to see what your child knows so you can keep building on that knowledge or identify what you need to review with them.
Take a look at the video below to see one way that you can see what your child is retaining!
In this video, I used a Crayola My First TouchPad. This product entertains my kids, so I knew that it would be a great way to see what my son knows.
What should you do if your child makes a mistake when checking for understanding?
If your toddler makes a mistake while you are checking for understanding, make sure to provide them with positive/corrective feedback.
Here’s an example: If you asked your child, “Where is the triangle”? And they touched the circle, all you have to say is “that is a circle.” Then go on to show them the triangle.
If you are seeing that your child is getting one or two shapes wrong each time you check for understanding, try presenting the information differently by using a variety of different toys, books, or drawings to see what works best for them!
Tip #6: Be their biggest cheerleader!
If your toddler is not able to identify shapes or isn’t interested in learning quite yet, don’t get frustrated. The learning process for each child is different.
It’s easy to compare your child’s skills (cognitive or physical) with another child their age. Some children have learned their shapes by 15 months, and others aren’t interested in learning quite yet, and they are 20 months.
THAT IS OKAY!
The important thing is that you keep a positive attitude, play with shape toys daily, and repeat the information. Please try not to get frustrated!
Be patient, and stay confident in your child!
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
Teaching your toddler about shapes is a fun but challenging adventure!
It’s important to start slow, play with shape toys they can manipulate and practice each day. Try to mix up the activities that you do with them to keep them engaged and excited to learn!
I would love to help in your journey, teaching your toddler shapes. Whether you need some creative ideas or you need more helpful suggestions, please leave a comment below.
If you have any great ideas that you would like to share as well on what helped you teach numbers to a toddler, please share them with us too!
And I’d love to know:
What is your favorite way to teach toddlers colors?