by Lindsay W. Brown
June 18, 2010
“When my child was small, I watched him learn by exploring his environment, so I tried to find fun ‘teaching moments’ in our home and in our adventures in the community,” explains Deb Argast, Children’s Librarian at Eckhart Library. “We’d explore drawing shapes with chocolate pudding on his high chair tray or shaving cream on the shower door. Through our imaginative play, my son was learning!”
To gear your child for a successful school experience, it’s important that he or she recognize and have some understanding of shapes. Children who learn about shapes are building skills that will help them with reading, writing and math.
Even babies can recognize the difference between a circle and a square. They see shapes and feel them. As children grow older, they need your help learning the names of each shape. They begin to understand shapes at different levels, from identifying shapes according to their appearance to describing shapes by their characteristics. The names of shapes give children a common language for living in a world made of shapes—circles, squares, rectangles, triangles, and others.
Think about the letters on this page. Some are round, some are straight and some are
curvy. When a child learns to recognize circles and triangles, he is building early skills to help him recognize numbers and letters. When children start reading, they often learn to recognize words by their shape. When adults read quickly, they do the same thing.
Your child’s ability to identify shapes according to how they look and can be moved around in their hands begins to surface around age two. As children have fun experiences with shapes, they can start to talk about and compare shapes and understand how shapes are used. A verbal child might say “this is a rectangle because it looks like a door.” Knowing about shapes helps children recognize signs and symbols, like a stop sign has six sides.
There are many creative things parents can do at home with ordinary objects to create teaching moments with shapes. A few of Miss Deb’s suggestions include:
- Cookie Cutter Shape Art: A fun activity where children print shapes with cookie cutters. The same shape cookie cutters (after washing) can be used to make “food shapes”. Children cut shapes out of cheese and bread and the best part – eat the shapes!
- Create a “Shape Walk”: Use masking tape to outline shapes on the floor. Let children take turns walking, crawling, or hopping around the edges of the shape. It’s also helps your child with larger body movements!
- Body Shapes: Since children learn with their whole bodies, show them how to use their bodies to make shapes.
- Feely Bag: Put cardboard cutout shapes in a box or bag and ask your child to reach in and identify a shape by touch.
In addition, Deb reminds us that parents have a collection of books at their fingertips in their public libraries. Here are just a few: “Color Farm and Color Zoo” by Lois Ehlert is a delightful picture book where the animals are created by geometric shapes. “First Shapes in Buildings” by Penny Lane and “Shapes at Home” by Lisa Bruce introduce shapes that children find in everyday surroundings. Parents may introduce art with “Museum Shapes” by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photographer Tana Hoban has a series of wordless photo books that explore shapes: “Circles, Triangles and Squares”; “Shapes, Shapes, Shapes”; and “Spirals, Curves, Fanshapes and Lines”. And remember, making it fun for you and your child will create a memorable experience for you both.
For more information about Learning Link, an initiative of the DeKalb County Community Foundation, or a four-page booklet of low- and no-cost learning resources available in DeKalb County, go to www.dekalblearninglink.org and click on ‘Community and Parent Resources’, then ‘Early Childhood’, or call Judy Sorg at the DeKalb County Community Foundation, 260-925-0311 or e-mail Jsorg@dekalbfoundation.org.