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MCSA Lockdown Tip 47

MCSA Lockdown Tip 47

Lockdown Day 47 – Shapes

Education of the Senses

We have previously spoken about the young child’s developing visual discrimination and the cross-curricular foundations that are laid here for later more abstract learning.


Learning about shapes is an important aspect of this learning foundation. Remember however that the young child learns best when s/he is involved directly in the learning. Trying to teach the child about shapes by showing her/him a picture of a shape and drilling its name, is not half as effective as getting the child involved physically in the understanding of the shape.

Let us first explore why it is important that the child knows about shapes.


The ability to recognise similarities and differences is an essential critical thinking skill that underpins every learning area. All shapes are distinctly different from each other, and the understanding of shapes allows children to start observing and recognising an object’s distinctive traits. This is the first level of categorisation.


Another important foundational skill is the ability to find a common characteristic among different items. In order to categorise, the child will need to have had enough experience of the shape to be able to determine what makes the circle different from the square; or the hexagon different from the octagon. This is also a good way to enhance the child’s language skills.

How shapes fit together is a good spatial relations and problem solving skill set to develop. Can a triangle fit on a square? Why? How?


In order to understand the characteristics of shapes, a number of Maths skills will also need to be used. The child (for example) will count that the circle has no sides, the triangle has three sides and both the square and the rectangle have four sides. What makes the square different from the rectangle?


Shape recognition also helps with later shape and numeral recognition. The letter O is a circle. The number 0 is an oval.


So, how can we get children involved in learning about shapes?

  • If you have access to the three basic wooden shapes (square, triangle, circle), start there. Show the child how to trace around the edges of the shape with your finger and say its name. Then have a look around the room and see if you can find any objects that have the shape you have just traced.

For example, A square can be found in the windowpane. If possible, trace the wooden shape again and then trace the window pane. Each time, say the name ‘square’.

  • Repeat this with the other shapes.
  • Once the child has an understanding of these three shapes, see how many [circles] you can find in the room and compare this to the numbers of [triangles] you can find.
  • Does any object in the room have more than just one shape in it?
  • Take this exercise into the garden – what shapes can you find there?
  • The pantry is another good place to practice shapes. Here you can also experiment with what shapes fit on top of each other. You may also discover that there are various circles to be found on tins, but despite this similarity, there is a difference in size! Try grading the circles from largest to smallest.
  • How many square tins are there compared to round tins? Which has the most? Which has the least?
  • And … spaghetti! Spaghetti is a great constructor of shapes. Uncooked spaghetti constructs many straight-sided shapes, whilst cooked spaghetti allows for very creative shape constructions!