Teaching Shapes to Toddlers: 13 Fun Ideas to Get Started

by | Sep 10, 2021

Toddlers are always learning, and when your toddler is around two-years-old, it’s time to start teaching shapes to toddlers.

My toddlers always love to learn shapes, and with so many fun activities, you’ll find plenty of ways to teach your toddlers all the shapes. It’s best introduced as simple activities and games, along with shape toys that your child can enjoy for months.

Ready to get started? Here is what you need to know about teaching shapes to toddlers.

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Why Teach Shapes to Toddlers

Have you ever looked around you and realized that shapes are one of the most noticeable attributes of the world around us? Teaching shapes to toddlers gives them a way to recognize and understand the world around them.

Learning shapes has several benefits for toddlers.

1. Same or Different

Are triangles and circles the same? Are these squares the same or different?

Discriminating same vs different is a big deal for toddlers, and it helps them start to visually discriminate and learn the world around them. Kids start learning how to scan their environment and notice important differences. It also helps your children follow directions better.

For example, you might tell your toddler to grab the blue circle on the floor. That’s much easier for them to understand than just saying get the toy on the floor.

2. Teaches Categorization

Looking and learning about shapes teaches your children about the attributes off objects. Children learn how to make observations about similarities and differences.

For example, toddlers might compare two different squares. He will notice they’re the same shape, but they might be smaller or different colors.

3. Works on Problem Solving

Playing with a shape sorter helps your child determine where the blocks fit. This is an early example of problem-solving for toddlers.

Learning and discriminating shapes also works with spatial relation skills. Does the block fit into the same well? How do objects fit together? These are future math and science skills!

4. Early Math Skills

Shapes is a big part of early math skills. Building with blocks and working on shape puzzles are early geometry lessons. Your toddler learns geometric concepts like shapes, sizes, space, and position.

5. Early Letter Recognition

Shapes are also part of early letter recognition. Have you ever noticed the triangles made up A, V, and W? A circle is an O.

Learning about basic shapes helps your children learn about letter recognition and numbers, and it also helps them to draw shape, a precursor to writing.

6. Use Descriptive Vocabulary

Learning shapes helps to build your toddler’s descriptive vocabulary, encouraging your child to describe and express what they see.

She might notice the square cookie (hey, it happens!), red flowers, or the triangle-shaped toy. This is a gradual step, but it’s an important benefit of learning shapes.

13 Tips for Teaching Shapes to Toddlers

1. Play with Shape Puzzles

One of my favorite ways to teach shapes to toddlers is to play with shape puzzles. While it’s good for your child to play with puzzles alone, make sure you take the time to play with them and give them the names of the shapes regularly.

There are all kinds of awesome shape puzzles that your toddler will love. If you have a toddler who is around one-year-old and you want to introduce shapes, the Melissa & Doug First Shapes Jumbo Knot Puzzle is perfect. It has easy-to-grasp knobs and an understandable picture for toddlers.

If you have a toddler who is a bit older, the Melissa & Doug Shapes Wooden Chunky Puzzle is perfect. The puzzle has eight shapes total and large, chunky shapes that is easy for toddlers to grasp.

2. Be Repetitive

Repetition is a big deal. When your toddler is learning anything, you have to repeat the information several times.

Think about how many times you need to repeat directions, even for older kids!

Repeating the information for your toddlers is crucial, so when they hand you a puzzle shape, make sure you say the shape name. If you see a shape around the house – like the dining room table is a rectangle – make sure to tell your toddler!

3. Tracing and Coloring

Toddlers start learning shapes around two-years-old, and it should be fun! Here are some ideas for teaching shapes to toddlers.

One of the easiest tricks for teaching shapes to toddlers is tracing and coloring. Grab some crayons and let your child color some shapes.

If you can’t find coloring books that have shapes, there are plenty of shape printables or make your own. Toddlers aren’t picky at all!

4. Use Shape Sorters

I used to assume that shape sorters were an outdated toy that kid don’t need anymore – WRONG. Shape sorters give your child an opportunity to hold and learn the shapes, but it also works on problem solving skills.

At first, take away a few of the shapes to reduce the overwhelm your toddler might feel as they learn the shape sorter.

If you don’t have a shape sorter at home, I love the Melissa & Doug Shape Sorting Cube. It’s a classic sorting cube with 12 different shapes, ideal for kids two to four years old.

5. Cut Shapes with Play Doh

What kids don’t love Play-Doh? My kids are totally obsessed, and it’s an easy way to keep them occupied and engaged in learning. We have several Play-Doh sets and accessories around our house; mama needs a break sometimes!

I found a large set of play dough accessories, and several of the cutters are shapes. Give your kids some tubs of Play-Doh and these shape cutters. Show them a shape and tell them to cut out a square or triangle.

Trust me; your toddlers will love this!

6. Find Shapes Around You

Shapes are everywhere, but it’s easy to adults to forget that. Toddlers need to understand that shapes are part of their world, so look for shapes around you.

The table is a rectangle, a tall cup is a cylinder, the plate is a circle, and a cellphone is rectangle.

Shapes are everywhere, and parents need to point them out regularly. It helps your child know that learning shapes is a big deal!

7. Use Q-Tips to Build Shapes

One of the easiest ways to teach shapes is to build them with q-tips, something most people have and is super cheap.

Some shapes cannot be made with q-tips, like circles, but most can be made with them.

8. Draw Shapes with Sidewalk Chalk

We always have a bucket of sidewalk chalk sitting around, and it’s a great way to teach your toddler shapes. Draw the shapes with the chalk and tell your child the name of each shape. You can even call out shapes and have your child jump from shape to shape.

9. Don’t Learn Too Many at Once

Make sure you don’t introduce too many shapes at one time. That leads to overwhelm, and your goal is mastery. It’s impossible to master skills when the focus is spread out too thinly.

10. Draw Shapes in Shaving Cream

If you’re worried that your toddler will eat the shaving cream, whipped cream or peanut butter are edible substitutions that work as well.

Spread the shaving cream over the table and have your child draw the shapes in the cream. You’ll need to show them the shapes first and how to draw them.

11. Use Geoboards

Geoboards are a fun little tool that I have for my toddlers. All you need is the geo board and some rubber bands. Then, they “build” the shapes on the boards.

It keeps them entertained for quite awhile, and it’s even fun for you to enjoy.

12. Paint the Shapes

Here’s an easy and fun idea for toddlers.

Cut out shapes from a kitchen sponge, dip them into washable paint, and stamp paper with the shapes. You can start off with one or two shapes and gradually build up to more sponge stampers.

13. Shape Hunt

Try hiding shapes around a room for your toddler to find, or bury shapes in a box of rice or beans for your child to discover. Making a sensory bin with shapes is a great way to teach your toddler shapes while also engaging their other needs.

When Should Toddlers Learn Shapes?

Naming shapes takes longer to develop then learning colors. Children typically reach the stage when they can grasp the concept of shapes around two years old, but that doesn’t mean they’ll fully grasp shapes at that stage.

By the time your child is three to four years old, your child should be able to identify most of the basic shapes. Advanced shapes, like octagons, will be learned much later.

What Shapes Should a 2 Year Old Know?

An average two-year-old is just starting to learn shapes, so your child might not know any shapes yet. At this age, toddlers are starting to learn the basic shapes like circle, square, triangle, and rectangle.

What Shapes Should I Teach First?

Start by teaching your child the most common shapes: squares, circles, and triangles. After your child understands these three shapes, move to rectangles, stars, diamonds, and ovals.

Teaching shapes to toddlers should be fun and engaging; this shouldn’t be sit-down lessons that bore your child. Focus on making learning shapes as fun as possible and remember that repetition is necessary to help your toddler learn the names of the shapes.

Toddlers start learning shapes around two-years-old, and it should be fun! Here are some ideas for teaching shapes to toddlers.