Show me a triangle Teaching your child different shapes
The world is filled with shapes: triangles, rectangles, circles… Open your child’s eyes and mind to them with help from occupational therapist Susanne Hugo
DEVELOPING A CONCEPT of shape is extremely important in early childhood development. When you teach your child about shapes and forms, keep a few things in mind:
It’s important that your little one learns about shapes in three phases. Firstly, have them experience the shape with their whole body by, for instance, walking on the outline of a circle. Then you can let them touch and play with the shape – use a block or toy with a distinct form. Lastly, you can get your child to identify and draw the shape.
Remember, teach your child one shape at a time. Once it’s clear they understand one well, you can move on to the next. Teach shapes in this order: circle, triangle, square, rectangle, cross, diamond, semicircle, oval and star.
It’s unbelievable how much your bright spark can master at such a young age! By nine months they already store the concept of shape and that of colour separately in their memory.
How to help
Your baby won’t be able to identify or name shapes, but with the following activities they’re exposed to different shapes, which creates awareness. • Provide your baby with a variety of toys in different shapes. While you’re playing with him, say: “The ball is a round circle, and the block is a square.” Try and make your baby aware of shapes as often as possible. • Pack toys with specific shapes – such as balls, wooden blocks and sponge shapes – in a container. Unpack it together, and name every shape as you go along. • Decorate the nursery and specifically the changing station and play areas with mobiles or pictures with different shapes; do the same for the car seat. Name the shapes when you spot him looking at or playing with them. • Put baby on your lap while you page through a book with different shapes. Name the shapes: “The sun is a yellow circle. They live in a square house.”
Your child starts putting a circle and square in the right spaces in a shape puzzle. He might still battle sometimes, but he’ll master it sooner rather than later. He’s also starting to understand how shapes are grouped together. An orange and a ball are, for instance, both round and can roll.
Give your little one a shape puzzle with just a circle and a square on it. You can also make one yourself by cutting a circle
and a square out of a plastic container. Now cut circles and squares from cardboard if you don’t have blocks or beads in the right shape. • Give your munchkin enough time to play with the shapes before you show him where to place them in the puzzle or plastic container mould. It’s important to give him the chance to do it himself. Get excited with him when he succeeds – even if it happens by accident! • Roll a ball on the floor, and make your child aware of the fact that it’s round and can roll for this reason. Then explain that a square toy has corners, and that’s why it can’t roll. • Ensure your child has a variety of toys in different shapes with which to play. Start off the game by saying something like, “The ball is a round circle. The block is a square.” • He’ll still enjoy some of the older shape games he played before his first birthday, like unpacking and naming shapes from a box. 2-3 YEARS Your child can now group the four basic shapes: circle, square, rectangle and triangle. He can also identify and name circles. • Draw a circle big enough for your child to be able to walk on. You can do so with a stick in the ground, with chalk on your driveway, with bright pens on a big sheet of paper, or even with rope or the hosepipe. Encourage your little one to trace the shape by walking, running, crawling and jumping on it. Talk to him about the shape while he’s moving on it. • Have your child play rotten egg with friends or family. Encourage everyone to hold hands and make a circle. Focus their attention on the shape they’re making. • Let your little one sit on the floor, and place various blocks, beads and cardboard shapes in front of him. Hand him a circle shape and ask him to separate and put all the circles together. If he grabs the wrong shape, ask him to look at the next one and ensure he chooses the right one. If he struggles a lot with this game, though, you can make it easier by just giving circles and squares. You can also make the game more challenging by adding shapes. • Finger paint is a fantastic aid to explain the concept of shape. Teach your child to make a circle by painting one for him and then leading his hand around the outline. By the end of the year your little artist will imitate you by painting his own circle.
Your child can now name a circle, square and triangle and is keen to tell you the shapes of certain objects. He’ll for instance point out voluntarily that a ball is a circle. He’ll find it a lot easier to complete a shape puzzle now, and he starts copying simple shapes when you draw them. So get creative! Do this • Ask your little artist to draw different shapes and lines in the sand. Sit with him and show him how to draw a circle, and vertical and horizontal lines. At the end of the year you can also teach him how to draw a plus symbol, cross, square and ladder. Draw an example, and let him copy you. • Play “Simon says” with your child, but give orders that include a circle, square and triangle: “Simon says touch something that’s round like a circle.” “Simon says bring me a triangle-shaped block.” “Simon says stand on something that’s shaped like a square.” • By the end of the year you can blindfold your child and give him a circle, square or triangle shaped block. Challenge him to guess the shape he’s holding. Give him many clues if he struggles with this game. It’s completely normal if your child calls a circle a ball and a square a block.
4-5 YEARS It’s time to sort! Your child can group together roughly six shapes (circle, square, triangle, rectangle, oval and star). He also understands the difference between a square and a rectangle. Do this • Sit with your child while he pages through a book. Ask him to point to a specific shape on a page. Ask him to point out all the circle shapes on a page, for instance. He can point to a wheel, ball, sun etc. Also repeat the game with squares, triangles, rectangles and stars. • Use sticks, matches, wool or rope to devise different shapes, and ask your child to copy them. If you want to make the game more challenging, you can ask him to make the shapes without first giving an example. • Cut different coloured and sized shapes from cardboard, and allow your little artist to play around with them. Encourage him to build a tree or a house. Guide your child if he struggles with this game. You can also make him an example and ask him to copy it. YB
YOU CAN EVEN START POINTING OUT AND NAMING SHAPES TO YOUR SMALL BABY