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Learning Through Play: Fun Ways to Teach Your Toddler About Shapes

Learning to recognize and differentiate between shapes is an important skill in the preschool years.

Why? Because shapes are the building blocks for basic reading, math, and writing skills.

According to educational consultant Ellen Booth Church in a post on Scholastic.com, “When your child explores different shapes, she is using one of the most basic educational processes: the observation of same and different. This concept provides her with a basic process that she will be able to use in observing, comparing and discussing all she sees and encounters.”

The best— and easiest— method for teaching shapes to toddlers is through play. But how exactly can parents go about playing with their children in ways that will also build skills? Here are five fun and easy ways for you to do just that.

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  • Block by Block 1 of 7
    Block by Block
    Blocks are a great way to introduce the concept of shapes to your little one. Group blocks by shape, outline different shapes on the table, or create shape patterns with the blocks. No matter how you use them, your toddler is guaranteed to have fun!
    Photo credit: Yoshihito/Flickr
  • Fun with Play Doh 2 of 7
    Fun with Play Doh
    Play Doh, either from the store or homemade, is another great tool for teaching your child about the importance of shapes.
    Photo credit: Lentini/Flickr
  • Little Artist 3 of 7
    Little Artist
    Your toddler will love learning about shapes through art. Show him examples of shapes with paint, chalk, or crayons and ask him to identify them. Or get out the safety scissors and paste and make shape collages out of pictures from magazines.
    Photo credit: Suzette Suzette/Flickr
  • Puzzle It Out 4 of 7
    Puzzle It Out
    Toddlers love puzzles, and they're another awesome way to get them to recognize that things fit together because of their shapes. Don't simply let them work the puzzle— examine individual puzzle pieces and ask your child to trace the edges with his finger, which will accentuate the concept.
    Photo credit: eelke dekker
  • Go on a Shape Hunt! 5 of 7
    Go on a Shape Hunt!
    Search your neighborhood for shapes in nature. Take plastic bags along so that your toddler can collect examples of different shapes found along the way. You can point out the circles of traffic lights, triangular rooflines, and squares and rectangles in signs. Have fun!
  • Reading Time 6 of 7
    Reading Time
    Incorporate books about shapes into your reading time with your child. Round is a Mooncake: A Book of Shapes by Grace Lin is a great example.
    $11.99 at Amazon
  • Make Mealtimes Fun with Shapes! 7 of 7
    Make Mealtimes Fun with Shapes!
    Make snacks and mealtimes fun and enriching for your toddler by emphasizing foods of different shapes. Cut sandwiches into triangles or even use cookie cutters to make circles or squares. It doesn't have to be elaborate at all -- in fact, sometimes the best activities come from the simplest things. No matter if it's simple or elaborate, focus on fun and the learning will soon follow.
    Photo credit: Gamene/Flickr

Mary Lauren Weimer is a social worker turned mother turned writer. Her blog, My 3 Little Birds, encourages moms to put down the baby books for a moment and tell their own stories. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

More by Mary Lauren:

10 Ideas For Backyard Toddler Fun

Family Biking with your Toddler: Tips from the Pros!

12 Summer Books to Read with Your Toddler

Lead Photo Credit: Ella’s Dad/Flickr

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