Eight or so ways to play with shapes

T’s become very interested in shapes recently and keeps pointing out shapes that she notices around her. I decided to get her a book about them from our local library, and she loved it so much that this week we have been bringing shape into her play! So, activity number one – reading about shapes!

This is such a fun book as it explores shapes in so many different ways! It is a good starting point to talk about shapes but equally you can ignore them altogether and just enjoy the pictures and flaps!

She loves coming downstairs in the morning to find a new activity ready for her. It doesn’t always happen of course! But she has started asking for them if they are not there. So I set up a couple of simple activities for her: large drawn shapes and lollipop sticks; and foam shapes hidden in a tray of packing peanuts. That’s two and three!

Drawn shapes and lollipop sticks
Drawn shapes and lollipop sticks

She got straight to work the following morning place the lollipop sticks on the outlines of the shapes. The random ones in the middle are “noses”! Once she had done that, she continued to play with the sticks for a while, until she noticed the tray of packing peanuts. I had hidden some things in this earlier in the week, so she went straight over to find out what was in there now! She kept going until she had found all the shapes, and then brought them over and started to match them with the shapes she had made.


Some shapes didn’t match so she left those on their own.

To help her identify some of the shapes around her, I put a few of her toys in a basket for her to match to the foam shapes. Now, the obvious problem with any object is that they are 3D shapes rather than 2D. However, at this point I just want her to explore shape and recognise similarities and differences – so if she matches a cube to a square, great! I found a variety of things, some which were flat-ish (and more like a 2D shape) and some which were not, and encouraged her to (number four) match them to the foam shapes.

Matching objects to foam shapes.

She did this independently and I was pretty impressed! It was certainly a step up from matching the foam shapes to the lollipop stick outlines. I threw in one trickier one, a wooden house, which she matched to the rectangle – it has a rectangle as the base, so that worked for me, and we talked about how to top of the house was pointed like a triangle.

Later in the week we did some potato printing (five), which she really enjoyed. My sister and brother-in-law gave her this painting tray for Christmas, which comes in very useful as it means the colours stay separate for a bit longer than when they were on a plate!

I said the colours stay separate for longer, not forever – eventually they did all become one!

I think the trick to potato prints is drying the potatoes off a bit before printing with them. It definitely worked better than last time we attempted it! I love the finished result!

Triangles, rectangles, squares and ovals
Triangles, rectangles, squares and ovals

We did some block play this week too (that’s number six). T is pretty much focused on building towers but I like building alongside her and this week I made a train! Forgot to take a photo though. Fail. She enjoyed telling me that I was making it wrong and pushing the finished train around the sitting room, or, to put it another way:  destroying it.

We also used the blocks to make impressions in playdough. We made monster faces (apparently).


This would be a fun way to explore the different shapes of faces on a 3D shape for older children.

7. I put out some paper shapes, scissors and glue for her to stick and snip! She went straight for her “snissors” – she loves them and so do I! I got these from Amazon and they are so child friendly as she can use her whole hand to cut. It is great fine motor development. I drew a large zig zag on a rectangle for her and demonstrated how to cut it out by snipping along the line and she had a good go! Obviously, I don’t leave her unattended with these – they’re not exactly sharp but could do some damage, and there’s always the risk of a dodgy accidental haircut!


And finally, number eight! At Christmas, T was given these lovely wooden magnetic shapes by her grandparents. They come with a magnetic whiteboard, and various shape pictures that slide into the frame for her to place the shapes on. They’re great as they help her to think about how shapes can fit together to make a bigger picture, but we can also remove them templates altogether and be completely creative with it!


Leave a Reply