Learning Shapes: Easy Methods for Kids

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Updated on: Educator Review By: Michelle Connolly

When children are toddlers and preschoolers, learning shapes is some of the first contact they make with mathematical concepts. Shapes feature in everyday objects and life, and understanding them is an important part of education. Introducing shapes during the toddler years helps children recognise sequences and patterns in many subjects other than mathematics. Sequences and patterns appear in daily functions, as do shapes, and learning them at an early age can help children in their future endeavours. Learning shapes is an important part of child development and helping them recognise each one can aid them in organising visual information, as well as understanding signs and symbols. 

Shapes in Real Life
Shapes in Real Life


Learning Shapes: 2D and 3D Shapes

Not all shapes were created equal and there are a variety of shapes that come in different dimensions. The most common shapes taught in this regard are two-dimensional shapes (2D) and three-dimensional shapes (3D). Learning shapes and their properties introduce children to a variety of mathematical concepts and operations and aid them with understanding these patterns and sequences in their future learning. Learning the different shapes and their names are integral to understanding some of the simplest mathematical operations. Triangles feature heavily with angles and help with the design of structures and so on. Integrating certain knowledge helps children appreciate this and learning shapes correctly can instil the importance of space and how it is seen in everyday life.

The basic 2D shapes that we first learn are usually things like the rectangle, the square, the circle, and the triangle. There are other more complex shapes called polygons. Learning shapes like these are more exciting as they have more edges and have more interesting shapes. These are shapes like hexagons, pentagons, octagons. There are even shapes known as quadrilaterals that have wonderful names like the rhombus. Other shapes like ovals and trapeziums also feature as 2D shapes. They all have different properties and make learning shapes a dynamic and entertaining experience. 

Learning shapes introduces children to a variety of rules around the properties of these objects. Not every shape has the same amount of sides, some don’t even have corners. For example, circles and ovals only have one side and they have no corners. In comparison, rectangles have four sides and four corners; triangles have three sides and three corners, and so on. Knowing the differences between sides and corners is an important part of knowing the differences in shapes and how they are used. It also helps children learn to count. Learning shapes can help with children’s counting abilities as they count all the sides a shape can have. 

There are a variety of methods to teach children the properties of shapes. Using blocks and physical objects, drawing, these ways are all effective examples of learning shapes. Demonstrating how shapes can be learned via storytelling is another effective way of communicating the properties of shapes. Make a story up about a rectangle with your child can encourage their creative and critical thinking skills whilst teaching them about the shape in question. 

Learning Shapes: 3D Shape Nets for Kids

3D shapes are a great method of helping children understand how 3D shapes are made from 2D ones. A 3D net is a net that has all the flat faces or 2D shapes that make up a 3D figure. Every single shape is different and there are a variety of different visuals for each shape. For example, a cuboid will be physically different from a prism. A cube is made up, for example, of six flat faces, as is a cuboid. A prism is made up of five flare faces and son on. Geometric shapes are an exciting way to teach children shapes as they come to terms with how they can see these physical properties in everyday life. It also helps children visually digest information and see how patterns can be used even in the creation of three-dimensional shapes. 

Allow children to recognise 3D shapes in objects around them. This could be their toys or even objects that you own around your home. Helping them notice these shapes and realise how important they are in the things around them will help give learning shapes a more practical edge as they see them being utilised. Ask your children to recognise the shapes and question them why they think that. This is a great way of assessing how much they have learned about shapes and 3D nets and their properties. Things like traffic cones or books are a great way of getting them to visually recognise these 3D shapes.

Learning Shapes: 3D Shape Properties

3D shapes have a variety of different properties which make them highly fascinating to learn about. Showing children and helping them with their mathematical vocabulary, allows them to be able to explain these properties and makes learning shapes even more fun. Helping them recognise what a flat surface is is the beginning of understanding 3D shapes. The edge of a 3D shape refers to any side of a 3D shape where two faces meet. The last word that is associated with 3D shapes is a vertex. A vertex is used to explain the point where edges of the solid figure meet. Knowing this is a key part to understanding 3D shapes. An example of a 3D shape would be a cube. Cubes have 6 faces, 12 edges, and 8 vertices. Vertices are the plural of a vertex. An example of a cuboid that a child could understand is a dice.

Learning shapes like cylinders, cuboids, and prisms is a great way of encouraging children to engage in their surroundings. If you are on a walk, ask them what they see around them. Encourage them to notice different shapes in objects and ask them how they have come to these conclusions. This is a great way to test how well learning shapes lessons has gone for them as they begin to notice the patterns of shapes in outside objects. Even noticing shapes in nature is important. Using bees as an example, their hives where they make the honey are in perfect hexagons where they can store their honeycomb as well. Learning shapes does not have to be a mundane process and can open up plenty of conversation. 

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