Even babies can tell the difference between a circle and a square, using their sight and sense of touch to tell them apart. However, learning the names of the different shapes is not an innate ability, but rather a necessary step in your preschooler’s education. Children need to learn the names of shapes so they can identify them verbally and in writing and compare the various shapes and how they are used. These are basic skills that they will use for the rest of their lives.
Learning shapes helps your child identify objects and letters. The letters are made up of circles, triangles and lines; think of the circles at b, d, g, p, q, or the parts of a triangle that meet at k, v, and w. Drawing the curved lines of a circle or oval shape helps your child write letters like f, u, m, n, j, and the lines in squares help your child write i, l, k, p, q, etc. . Recognizing letter shapes often helps a child recognize the letter as well, which is important for developing reading skills.
Drawing shapes is also the first step in learning to draw. Almost everything can be broken down into shapes, like a house, a cat, a book, a ball; all can be drawn with simple shapes. This makes it easier for your child to move from stick drawings to more detailed artwork, and if he’s talented, he’ll use shapes to draw and paint in the future, too.
Shapes are extremely important in basic and more advanced mathematics. Most adults will immediately think of geometry, but shape patterns and spatial awareness help your child develop logical and sequencing skills that they will use later in their school career in subjects like calculus.
We use shapes every day as adults, even if we don’t realize it. Think about rearranging the furniture in the living room, cleaning out the kitchen cupboards or the refrigerator, all according to the shape of the elements in them and how they will relate to each other. Road signs and markings make extensive use of different shapes, helping us to recognize them before we can read them.
Learning about shapes includes learning about two-dimensional and three-dimensional shapes. A sphere, or ball, is a 3D circle and has specific properties, such as the ability to roll, that other shapes don’t. This is true for all forms, and your child will be able to make this progression if his basic foundation is good.
By kindergarten, children are expected to know basic shapes, recognize them, and identify how they fit together. You can also expect them to be able to draw the shapes, not perfectly, but certainly recognizable. There are many ways to encourage and help your child learn about shapes.
Because shapes are all around us, it’s easy to play ‘Find the Shape’ at home, in the car, at the store, and anywhere in between. Select one shape at a time to focus, rather than trying to find all the different shapes.
A good set of preschool worksheets will help your child recognize different shapes, see how they fit together with other objects, and learn how to draw them. Drawing shapes is the precursor to learning to write, and a good set of worksheets will guide you step by step through this process until your child draws shapes on their own, freehand. Look for worksheets that combine learning shapes with the use of different colours, as this is particularly effective at reinforcing shape names.