Ages 0-3

   Curator Tibby W.

Curator Tibby W.

Why I Made This Kit

Spotting the moon as it rises over the end of our street has always been a fun family ritual. However, one night, after months of playing with shape puzzles and reading shape books, my daughter looked up and gasped. “Mama, it’s a circle!” she exclaimed. It was like a light had gone on for her and from then on she began to understand and join in when we named the shapes we saw around us.

Shapes, like colors, make a great early learning experience for kids because they are everywhere. It’s very easy to point out shapes as you talk to your child about what they see in the world around them. Shapes are often a child’s first experience with math. But most importantly, they are fun for kids to learn and play with as any child with a set of blocks can tell you.


Shapes by Xavier Deneux

The Touch Think Learn books are really great even up into the late toddler years. Shapes isolates one shape per page really drawing the reader’s attention to it. With the cutout and raised elements in the pictures children can run their fingers around the shapes to get an added sensorial experience to connect with the concept. It’s an added bonus that the illustrations are modern and appeal to parents.


Museum Shapes by The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This book does a really nice job focusing on a large variety of shapes found in many artistic styles and eras. I think seeing the shapes in pictures shows children that different angles and media make the shape look slightly different, giving them a subtle lesson in perspective and variation on shape. The book could also certainly open up a discussion about finding shapes in pictures and illustrations around your house. To further extend this book see the Family Activity: Art Museum Field Trip below.  


Round Is a Mooncake by Roseanne Thong

This is a shape book for families looking for diversity in their picture books. Each shape mentioned in Round Is a Mooncake has some cultural significance which is detailed at the end of the book. Clear, beautiful illustrations by Grace Lin draw your attention to each shape and enhance the text. This could be a jumping off point for finding shapes in your own cultural or religious heritage celebrations.


Color Zoo by Lois Ehlert

Ehlert uses shapes to create a zoo of animals. Circles, squares, triangles, and hearts become tigers, monkeys, and snakes. The book is cleverly designed with cut outs that layer together. When the page is turned one shape disappears and a new animal is revealed. I like to pair this book with a set of pattern blocks or cut out shapes to encourage children to make their own animals.


Mouse Shapes by Ellen Stoll Walsh

Like Color Zoo, Mouse Shapes uses shapes to create pictures. However the mice here take the pictures and create a story around them. The frame story about three mice hiding from a cat in a pile of shapes is cute, but I think its real power lies in showing children how to use something like shapes in storytelling, kickstarting their imagination.



Shapes, Shapes, Shapes by Tana Hoban

Simply a collection of photographs of everyday life. In them you can find a variety of shapes. Tana Hoban always has an eye for finding scenes and places that highlight the concept she wants to show children. This is good inspiration for the shape hunt described below.


Sesame Street Playlist: Toddler Shapes

Join the Sesame Street gang to learn about shapes. There is a huge variety of activities here, from videos to songs. There is a play along where you play the triangle instrument along with a silly song about triangles. There is also a shape identification game with Big Bird. Along the side, tips and suggestions for playing together with shapes rotate by. Easy to use and navigate with no ads.

  • Tip: At the end of the playlist there are more shape playlists to explore.


Barney: We Like the Shapes

A cute song about shapes. It teaches children how many sides a triangle, square, and circle have. Not only will your child get a kick out of the video, the song is catchy too. Be sure to dance around while singing!

Shape Charts

Not sure what the names of more complex shapes are? A seven-sided polygon, anyone? This website has 19 different shape charts to choose from that are free to download. Each chart has the outline or silhouette of the shape labeled with its name. Shapes range from basic to more complex. These can be used to help you name shapes with your child and would work with the activities below.

  • Tip: You might also like to print them out to hang on the fridge.


Depending on your child’s interests and age they may enjoy one or more of these apps. Some are free and have in-app purchases available to unlock more content, while others cost about a dollar.

Shapes Toddler Preschool (Toddler Teasers)

Overview: Easy to use with bright colors and engaging animations Shapes Toddler Preschool is a basic app for learning to identify shapes.

Inside Scoop: This app features a flashcard section that shows a shape and reads the name. There is also a section for sorting the shapes by matching them with their silhouettes. Your child can play with the shapes in the Toy Box by popping balloons and loading them in a canon. Each time they touch a shape the name is repeated out loud.

Once your child has mastered the names of the shapes included with the app they can use the quiz section which asks them to touch a shape when the name is said aloud.


Pattern Shapes by The Math Learning Center (Clarity Innovations)

Overview: At its most basic this is pattern blocks for the iPad.

Inside scoop: Kids can add pattern blocks to a canvas and make their own pictures or fill in shapes and pictures from the app. They can also simply make patterns and tessellations. You can easily change the color and size of the blocks using the side and bottom bar menus. The app is simple to use and the bright colors are appealing. The app does includes the ability to learn about symmetry and use the pattern blocks as true math manipulatives to learn about fractions, so it may appeal to older siblings as well.


Shapes with Sammy & Eve Lite (Baby First, BFTV, LLC.)

Overview: Two cute chipmunks have you create pictures with different colored shapes.

Inside scoop: After you drop the shapes in place a little animation completes the picture and giggles can be heard. Very simple to use, just click “play” and the animation and game begins. A pulsating white circle tells you where to place the shape. The lite version allows you to make two pictures before asking you to purchase the full version. With the lite version you will have to close the app completely once you exit before starting over, otherwise it tries to force you to purchase the full version. The full version costs $0.99.


Colors and Shapes: Learn and Play Lite (Hachette Livre)

Overview: Using cute little animals a series of games teach your toddler shapes.   

Inside Scoop: Catch a darling little critter on the menu page. Whichever shaped critter you have chosen you will go through several games where you identify that shape, sort it by size, and trace it. The cute creatures and repetition will appeal to toddlers, as will the idea of feeding the animals little shape candies. The lite version features three shapes to learn. The full version gives the rest of the shapes as well as color games. Full version costs $0.99. App features a French language setting.



Baby Games- Color and Shape (Happy Touch, concappt media)

Overview: Simple shape and color matching puzzles similar to a shape sorting toy.

Inside Scoop: The little monster that cheers for you when you correctly match the shape doesn’t tell you the name of the shape, but that is probably fine for younger iPad users who may find it distracting. The nice thing about this app is that it starts simple with just two shapes. Your child can move on to more shapes and colors when they are ready. The free version features two and four piece matching. The full version has 6, 16, and 25 piece matching puzzles and an animal-shape matching puzzle and costs $0.99.


Fingerplays & Songs

Make a Triangle

(sung to the tune of "Three Blind Mice")

One, two, three.

One, two, three.

Do you see? Do you see?

Up the hill and to the top,

Down the hill and then you stop,

Straight across; tell me what have you got?

A triangle! A triangle!

Have your child use their thumbs and pointer fingers to make a triangle with their hands while singing, point to the uphill side, downhill side and straight across on your child’s fingers as you sing each line.


(sung to the tune of: "Frere Jacques")

This is a square. This is a square.

How can you tell? How can you tell?

It has four sides,

All the same size.

It's a square. It's a square.

This is a circle. This is circle.

How can you tell? How can you tell?

It goes round and round,

No end can be found.

It's a circle. It's a circle.

This is a triangle. This is a triangle.

How can you tell? How can you tell?

It only has three sides,

That join to make three points.

It's a triangle. It's a triangle.

This is a rectangle. This is a rectangle.

How can you tell? How can you tell?

It has two short sides,

And it has two long sides.

It's a rectangle. It's a rectangle.


Shape Hunt Three Ways

 Source: Creative Family Fun

Source: Creative Family Fun

Why This Activity

A shape hunt will have your child up and moving around the house, the neighborhood, or quietly in a magazine searching for shapes high and low. Not only do these shape hunts encourage moving around, it makes them look more closely at the world around them. These activities can also engage both older and younger children. Older children may enjoy helping younger siblings or friends find and identify the shapes or may join in purely for the fun of it. The first hunt makes a great rainy day activity. The third hunt is a great car activity because it’s contained.

First Hunt

What You’ll Need

  • masking or painter’s tape

What To Do

  1. Using the tape outline a circle, square, and triangle on a large patch of floor. The living room often works well for this.

  2. Tell your child you are going on a shape hunt around the house.

  3. Begin looking around the house together to find something like one of the shapes outlined on the floor, such as a rectangular book.

  4. When you have found it bring it back to the living room and place it within the outline. At some point you may be able to split up and come back together to compare treasures.

  5. At the end of the activity you might want to create a shape museum. Place a few small items on a table or windowsill in their room or out where everyone can see them. Consider covering the table with a cloth before placing the items on it.

Second Hunt

What You’ll Need:

  • a camera (preferably one that your child can use, but not necessarily)

What To Do

  1. Explain to your child that you are going to go on a walk around your neighborhood (or park) and that you are going to be looking for shapes. You may start off by finding the first few to give them the idea. You might also want to read the book Shapes, Shapes, Shapes by Tana Hoban for inspiration prior to the walk.

  2. When you find a shape snap a quick picture of it. Don’t forget to look up and down. Shapes are everywhere!

  3. If possible, print the pictures out, even if they are in black and white, and have your child trace the shapes you found with a large marker.

  4. Alternatively, have them trace over the shape with their finger. You could also have them glue a paper or foam shape over the shape in the picture.

  5. If you aren’t comfortable with your child using the camera by themselves, have them direct you or help you push the shutter button while you hold the camera.

Third Hunt

What You’ll Need

  • old magazines (magazines with lots of pictures are best)

  • markers or pencils

What To Do

  1. Help your child flip through an old magazine looking for any shapes.

  2. When they see one, have them circle or trace it with the marker or pencil.

  3. Younger children may need help finding shapes in more complex pictures.

Shape Collage (Paper Pattern Blocks)

Why This Activity

As your child works with paper shapes they will become familiar with how they look. This gives you an opportunity to build their vocabulary when you use the correct names for the shapes. This is also a really great activity for building spatial understanding. Piecing the shapes together gives children a hands-on experience manipulating the shapes and seeing how they fit together to make other shapes. This is also a good quiet time activity. Feel free to play music in the background while you work.

What You’ll Need

  • old magazines or colored paper OR foam shapes

  • glue stick

  • large sheets of white paper OR a large work surface

  • tray, cookie sheet, or basket

What To Do

  1. Using the magazines as scrap paper, cut out a variety of shapes. Or use the colored paper to cut out shapes.

  2. Place them on a tray or cookie sheet or in a basket to help keep them contained while your child works with them.

  3. Give your child either a large workspace to lay out the shapes or a large piece of paper.

  4. Working with them, you can create pictures or patterns. Your child may wish to glue their picture or pattern down to the large paper. Or your child may enjoy pushing all the pieces out of the way and starting over again with a clean slate.

Single Shape Sensory Basket

 Source: Imagination Tree

Source: Imagination Tree

Why This Activity

Young children like to explore the world by touching everything. A basket full of items in a single shape is a great way to draw their attention to shapes and to give them a fun activity that engages their desire to explore with their hands. Using the bag and sense of touch with older children helps develop their sense of touch by having them create a picture in their mind of what their hand is feeling without seeing the object. You may find older siblings want a turn with the stereognostic bag.

What You’ll Need

  • a basket

  • items all of one shape (circles, squares, etc.; items like lids, boxes, toys, etc.; be sure they are safe items for children to have)

What To Do

  1. Place the items in the basket and let your child explore them. Let them touch them. mouth them, put them on the floor and back in the basket, even dump the basket.

  2. This is a great activity for really young children, but it can be scaled up for toddlers. While a baby may want to hold and mouth the objects, a toddler might want a basket with several shapes that they can sort or might want to name the shapes and items as they pull them out of the basket.

Variation For Older Toddlers: Stereognostic or Mystery Bag

  • Choose two or three items of one shape. Show them to your toddler and name them. Be sure they too can name them.

  • Place the items in a bag where they can’t see them. Have your child close his or her eyes and reach into the bag.

  • Without removing the item have them touch the object and try to determine what it is.

  • You may wish to demonstrate this once or twice before they have a turn. As their ability to do this improves you can add more objects.

Family Activity: Art Museum Field Trip

Why This Activity

What a great reason to get out of the house. Not only is your child seeing shapes everywhere they are being exposed to great art. And, since shapes are really a mathematical concept, they will come to appreciate the connection between art and math.

What You’ll Need

  • your family/friends

  • good sized cutouts of a variety of shapes (circle, square, star, heart, rectangle, diamond, quatrefoil, etc.)

  • camera (optional)

What To Do

  1. Like in the book Museum Shapes and on your shape hunts you are going to be looking for shapes again today. This time you are going to be looking for them at the art museum.

  2. Use the cut out shapes held up to the art to locate shapes everywhere. Just be sure you don’t actually touch the art! Stand a few feet back and hold the shape up for a visual, not tactile, comparison. And don’t forget to look at the floor, the furniture and the frames. Shapes are everywhere.

  3. If your child would like and if it is allowed by the museum, you can take pictures of them holding up the shape and standing next to the art.

  4. Be sure to check for special days at the local art museum. Many are free for young children or have reduced or free admission for everyone several times a year.

Other Activity Suggestions

  • Clay or Play-Doh:Use clay, modeling beeswax or Play-Doh to form and cut out shapes. You can either cut out whole shapes or make outlines. As with all these activities this gives you an opportunity to let your child explore shape with their hands and to build their vocabulary by naming the shapes as they create them.

  • Stencils and Tracing:Stencils may be difficult for the youngest learners, but older toddlers may be able to manage large sturdy stencils. Alternatively you can trace the shape pieces from large peg puzzles. Once the shape is traced onto a piece of paper your child might want to add a face or color it in. Tracing is excellent fine motor practice. They may need your help guiding the pencil or pen, but even that helps them feel the process of tracing.

  • Stamps:Stamps may be another fun way to play with shapes. Your child can stamp patterns onto strips of paper or make a picture with shape stamps like they did with the paper pattern blocks. Using stamps is good practice for fine motor control and strength.

About Tibby W.
Tibby, a curator from the Bay Area, was born to love books.  Seriously.  Her parents named her after a nickname from a children’s book!  Anyone remember the Betsy, Tacy, and Tib” books?  There you have it.  Even stranger, Tibby’s best friend from high school is the granddaughter of the illustrator of the series.  Now, that is someone almost born with a book in her hand!  Tibby is a former teacher and children’s librarian, currently staying home to spend time with her little one.  She is a dynamic member of our curator community, and we’re thrilled to have her!  Let the questions begin, and if you have more questions, leave comments or visit us @zoobeanforkids!