It's Hip to Be a Square

Exploring simple shapes sets the stage for creative thinking. These easy activities focus on the geometry of fun!
By Ellen Booth Church



It's Hip to Be a Square

It's exciting when your child discovers that a clock is also a circle or a folded napkin a triangle. Exploring simple forms unlocks new views of everything — games, art, science, you name it. Take a closer look at your surroundings together - starting in the comfort of your home — and you'll find shapes of all sorts and sizes right under your nose.

  1. Sort the house: Collect a variety of household objects, like bottle caps and envelopes, and invite your child to sort them into different piles — one for circles, rectangles, and so on. Invite her to go on a treasure hunt around the house to find "one more thing" for each pile.
  2. Cut shape sandwiches: Use cookie cutters to make dainty tea sandwiches for a Shape Tea Party! Cut the bread with the cutters, then spread the shapes with cream cheese. Try filling the bread slices with foods of different shapes, like a round tomato slice on square bread or a triangle of cheese on round bread.
  3. Make puzzles: Use large, colored file cards, folders, or poster board to make shape puzzles together. Cut out big basic shapes, like circles or triangles, and then cut each into two or three pieces. Your child can decorate the shape puzzles with crayons and then put the puzzles back together.
  4. Explore letters: Hunt for shapes within the letters of the alphabet. Write out the alphabet in capital letters, and have your child find which shapes make up each. You can also show her how shapes form as you write; invite her to experiment by drawing large shapes of her own and turning them into letters.
  5. Paste a picture: Provide your child with paste and a variety of cut-out paper shapes in different sizes and colors for creating pictures. Encourage him to combine shapes to create designs or familiar images. For example, he might make a shape person with a circle head, a square body, and rectangle legs.
  6. Search through stories: Many children's picture book author-illustrators boldly use basic shapes in their illustrations (books by Tana Hoban, Eric Carle, and Leo Lionni are particularly good places to start). As you read with your child, ask her to point out the shapes she finds in each picture. 
  7. Take a walk: Move shape play outside by taking a walk with cardboard cut-outs of a triangle, circle, square, and rectangle. Your child can match them to objects like signs, plants, doors, and car tires. Take along your digital camera to snap photos of the shapes. Then print them and make a family shape book!
Math Activities
Age 5
Age 4
Age 3
Alphabet Recognition
Early Math
Games and Toys
Shapes and Sizes