There are A LOT of websites that give activity ideas for little ones, but my goal is to make teaching your little one such a natural part of your everyday routine….. and it helps to have some insight into the best teaching techniques.
Most parents who are “teaching” their little one spend more time “drilling” our kiddos (flash card style) than actually teaching them. This isn’t ALL bad and trust me, I am guilty of this at times!
We get very caught up in the idea that if our child has learned a skill (like letter naming) then we need to constantly ask them “What letter is this?” and then wait for their answer. Don’t get me wrong….this is a GOOD thing. You are helping your little one to recall the information repetitively for recognition and fluency’s sake! But I want to ADD that YOU still need to be reinforcing what your little one knows and not just leaving it up to them.
Here is my example of what I am trying to incorporate at home:
Sometimes when I am grocery shopping I see underlying learning opportunities in the products I buy (Alphabits, Fruit Loops for sorting or patterning, Familiar Print, etc.). But when I was picking up a box of waffles, I saw the opportunity to reinforce teaching shapes by buying a box of circular shaped waffles AND a box of square shaped waffles.
Instead of asking Sean Patrick, “Do you want the waffle that is a square or a circle?” (because I know that he knows his shapes), I talk more about it more to reinforce his familiarity with the shape vocabulary and help him make connections. “LooK! This waffle is shaped like a circle!” I said this as I held up a strawberry Eggo waffle. “It goes round and round and round like the wheels on the bus!” (I made it turn in circles just so that he would make a connection of another circular-shaped object) “And this waffle” (holding up the cinnamon toast waffle) “is shaped like a square. It has FOUR sides. One, two, three, four like a square on the floor!” Then I bent down and traced my finger on the outline of the square counting the sides. “Do you want the circle waffle? or the square waffle?”
He chose the “circle!” and he proceeded to tell me about it while he ate “I bite a circle. I bite a round and round” haha – I think he gets it.
Ignore the fact that his diaper is coming apart at the moment, we need to move into pull-ups because of all the “false alarms” that come with potty training. He cracks me up!
Today I wanted to tell you about a little geometry game for little ones that you can modify for your young learner. If your little one is already familiar with several two-dimensional shapes (squares, rhombus, trapezoid, circles, etc.), then you can accommodate and teach your little ones three-dimensional shapes (spheres, cylinders, cones, etc.). I know you might be thinking….you want me to teach my 3 year old what a trapezoid is? And I say….why not? Teach the simple and basic shapes first, but go ahead and introduce the “fancy” shapes that your little one will learn later anyway.
If you have not yet invested in some form of pattern blocks, you might want to….OR make them yourself by printing some shapes onto cardstock and cutting them out.
Basically, you want to teach your little one shapes by introducing the shape, some of its features (how many sides, how many sides are the same, what types of things in the house are shaped like it, etc.) and then you can play the following guessing game to see if your little one can become familiar with these shapes.
Basically, with my lack of artistic ability, I wrote on a brown bag and drew shapes to make it my official shape grab bag. There are three ways you can play (more if you are creative):
1) Place shapes in the bag and have your little one pull one out and guess the name of the shape. If he/she gets it wrong he has to put it back in the bag, but if he/she names it right he gets to “keep” it.
2) Place shapes in the bag, and grab hold of one without taking it out of the bag. Describe the shape you are feeling to your little one in detail as best you can. Draw the shape in the palm of their hand with your finger, or use other ways to hint at what the shape is until they guess it.
3) Place shapes in the bag, and have your little one stick their hand inside and describe the shape to you until you guess it.
There are actually a lot of elements to teaching and learning shapes because there are a variety of 2-dimensional shapes and 3-dimensional shapes that are distinguished by lines, angles, bases, sides, etc. And believe it or not, 2 and 3-dimesional shapes are introduced in Kindergarten, as well as tangrams (combining shapes together to form images), and sorting shapes by two attributes. So children definitely need to learn their basic shapes, and learn them well, early on because there is more to come!
If I were to teach my son shapes I would start with one a day, or even one a week, and investigate it, study it, and have fun with it, in as many ways possible.
Below is a link of a pair of glasses I made that I want you to print onto cardstock, cut out, and then draw the shape you and your child are “studying” onto the middle of the lens where the eyes would look out. Talk about the shape while you are drawing it. For example, if you were drawing a square you might say something like “I am going to make our holes in the shape of a square. So to make a square I need to start at the top, draw a straight line down, across, up, and back. Let’s count how many sides a square has! Do you want to trace over it with a marker the same way I drew it? What else do you notice about it? What does it remind you of? “
Draw it on the other lens and then cut them out carefully by poking a hole in the center and cutting outward, or bending the glasses and starting the snip that way.
Now go on a search all around your house with your “shape goggles” to find as many of that shape as you can. Shape Glasses
Writing and drawing can be interconnected in many ways. Most of my writing posts incorporate fine motor skill development for 3-5 year olds because their writing skills go hand-in-hand with being able to have control and coordination. The other aspect of writing includes knowledge of formation; putting letters, shapes, and numbers images into their working memory.
Writing ability for a 3-5 year old is not just learning how to write letters, it can also include learning how to draw and put shapes together to make pictures that resemble real life imagery (such as a picture of a person, animal, place, etc.)
So, today’s activity is to start with a circle bear. This teaches your little one familiarity with an everyday shape, but it also teaches them how to use one in illustrations which builds confidence for a young child who is still in the process of acquiring writing and drawing skills.