A collection of ideas for teaching shapes and geometry in Pre-K and Preschool.
Find more math ideas on the Math Resource Page
Click for a list of Shape Books for Pre-K Children
Shapes ~ We All Live Together Vol. 3, by Greg & Steve
I’m a Square ~ Math All Around Me, by Jack Hartmann
I’m a Circle ~ Math All Around Me, by Jack Hartmann
Shake Your Shape ~ Math All Around Me, by Jack Hartmann
Put three shapes on a tray, cover them with a cloth, and take one away. Uncover it and children guess which shape is missing. Another way to play is to have the children show what they saw using their own set of attribute block shapes or draw what they saw.
“I Have, Who Has” Shapes Card Game
Read the directions for this game and download the printable set of cards on the blog post at this link: “I Have, Who Has” Shapes Game.
Trend makes a great shapes and colors bingo game (or you could make your own). My kids love bingo games.
For beginners, provide a lot of pre-cut shapes for children to use to make a picture. Write their dictation on the paper, and ask them to talk about or describe the shapes they used. More advanced children can trace attribute blocks onto construction paper, cut them out, and glue them onto another piece of paper.
Play Dough Shape Mats
Draw shapes on solid color place mats with a permanent marker. Children roll the play dough out like a snake, then lay it on the outline of the shape on the shape mat.
These are small paper mache boxes with lids I found in the craft store. They come in squares, circles, rectanges, hearts, and ovals. Children match the shape of the lid to the correct box. I included a bowl of plastic treasure coins, so they could put a coin in each box.
Shape Photo Sorting
Children sort these shape photo cards into the different rows of the pocket chart. I had originally planned to create a printable for this, but could not find enough pictures for all of the shapes. I found this set on Montessori for Everyone, and rather than reinvent the wheel, I purchased this set for $4.99.
To make the paper shape pieces, I printed paper pattern blocks from the Math Their Way site. I printed them all the same color so that children would be sorting by shape and not by color. Children glued these onto a sorting sheet. These are great for saving for portfolios.
Children make shapes on the geoboard with rubberbands.
Children duplicate the geometric design on one of the geoboard cards onto their geoboard using rubberbands. I made the geoboard cards by photocopying the Geoboard Dot Paper from Math Their Way, and drawing different designs on them. These can be made to accomodate varying skill levels.
Pattern Block Shape Matching
I have lots of pattern block mats which you can print to use in your classroom. The black outlines are not as easy as the colored. I also have a pattern block book (see this page) with photos of different pattern block designs my students have made over the years. Children like to duplicate the patterns in the book.
Pattern Block Geometric Designs
Children love to make their own designs with the pattern blocks. The rules are that the blocks must lay flat and must touch on at least one side.
These plastic buttons are found in most educational supply catalogs, usually in the art section with collage materials. They come in a variety of colors and shapes: triangle, rectangle, square, circle, oval, diamond, heart, star, octagon. I use them for math because they are great for sorting by shape. The children sort each shape into clear plastic punch cups.
Sorting Paper Shape Cutouts
After the children have had practice sorting manipulatives by shape, we do this activity on paper. Children sort the paper cutouts by shape and glue them into the 4 sections on the paper. I used craft punchers from a craft store to make the cutouts.
Children make a book with 4 pieces of paper stapled together. They cut pictures from magazines and glue them on a page. For example, a tire on the circle page, a door on the rectangle page, a slice of pizza on the triangle page.
Shape Monster Book
The text of this book reads: “Shape monster, shape monster, Munch, munch, munch. How about a [blue circle] for your lunch.” You can print this book from HubbardsCupboard.org. The source for this idea is an unknown teacher from the Teachers.net chatboard. As far as I know, it is not copyrighted by Hubbards Cupboard, but the site does provide the printable.
Cereal Shape Sorting
Children sort mixed cereal pieces.
Squares: Chex, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cookie Crunch, other
Circles: Cheerios, Fruit Loops, Apple Jacks, other
Rectangles: Frosted Mini Wheat
Children sort the cereal by shape.
Children spread peanut butter or spreadable cheese on a square saltine cracker.
Children decorate a graham cracker rectangle with icing and sprinkles. These can also be broken in half to show the difference between a square and a rectangle.
Children cut out a piece of bread with a circle cookie cutter, and spread on butter or peanut butter and jelly.
Children decorate a sugar cookie with icing.
Children spread cream cheese and jam on an English muffin.
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