These simple 3D shape activities, grouped by age and level, build spatial intelligence and guarantee that your child won't have to "unlearn" the wrong names... A ball is NOT a circle!
Most of the newly graduated preschoolers that walked into my classroom were utterly confused about 3d shapes when they walked into my kindergarten classroom.
Shapes, which I thought would be one of the easier math standards to teach, became very challenging because kids were utterly confused on the difference between 2d and 3d shapes. A cube was called a square, a ball a circle, a box a rectangle.
It's not that kids didn't see the difference between a flat sheet of paper and a box; they didn't have the vocabulary to name what they were experiencing. After using the word circle for ball for so long, it took a lot of unlearning to get them to correctly call the basketball a sphere.
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Refresher: What are the names of 3D shapes?
Coming from a kindergarten teacher who just called a pyramid a triangular prism... I just did a recheck to make sure I don't mess you up! Haha. I just call both pyramids just that, but I do have kids notice the differences between them.
Here are the Learning Resources 3D Shapes we used for most of our activities. You can use household items or blocks!
3D Shape Activities for Toddlers
As toddlers are only just learning how to speak, they don't need to master the names of the shapes they're playing with, BUT they are still capable of exploring and manipulating shapes and playing to learn.
Tower Building Shape Activity for Toddlers
Using the blocks that you have invite your child to create a tower. As they build, you can help them name the shapes they're using. Child directed play is often the most engaging way to learn, and by using the strategy of "Saying what you see" you're helping build new vocabulary.
Parent and Baby Shape Activity for Toddlers
My kids LOVE to make families when they're playing whether it's dinosaurs, cars, princesses, or just rocks. They often hands me something big and something little and say, "That's the mama, and that's the baby."
Use this to your advantage to play Mama and Baby or any other caregiving relationship with the 3D shapes. For this one you'll need shapes of varying sizes.
I bought this set from Learning Resources because they had a wide range of shapes and sizes.
Ask your toddler to match the baby shape to the Mama/Dada/Parent.
Line up the Shapes Activity for Toddlers
It's parade time. Do you have some blue tape? It's my go to for activities on the go or in my own home. Make a shape of blue tape on the ground and invite your toddler to line up the shapes on the blue tape.
As they line them up you can bring up the names or if they're speaking, you can ask them about each shape as they explore it.
Does your child love this activity? Reverse the premise and have them try Tape Shapes for more 2D shape fun.
3D Shape Activities for Preschool
Preschoolers love to move and play. All the toddler games are appropriate for their level, but to take it up a notch, here are some higher level 3D shape activities for your preschoolers.
2D Sides, 3D Shape Puzzle Activity
On a piece of construction paper, trace around the shapes you want to give your preschooler. These will be the 2D sides that they're likely familiar with.
Ask them to name the shapes on the paper... Now what is different about the 3D shapes?
Can they match them to the 2D (aka FLAT) sides that are on the paper to complete the shapes puzzle?
Sorting the 3D Shapes Activity for Preschoolers
Of course, when we see these engaging, colorful shapes we start categorizing them in our mind. Sorting is a major math skill that I describe in this activity where I have the kids do the laundry and build math skills at the same time.
Challenge your preschooler to sort in different ways: color, size, shape (duh) but maybe they'll even astound you and sort by number of sides or has corners vs. not.
Kids are more likely to think outside the box than adults, so let them lead this activity and you'll probably be surprised!
3D Shape Activities for Kindergarten
Naming and comparing shapes are big geometry standards in kindergarten. Here are some of the kindergarten common core geometry standards from http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Content/K/G/
Correctly name shapes regardless of their orientations or overall size.
CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.G.A.3 Identify shapes as two-dimensional (lying in a plane, "flat") or three-dimensional ("solid").
CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.G.B.4 Analyze and compare two- and three-dimensional shapes, in different sizes and orientations, using informal language to describe their similarities, differences, parts (e.g., number of sides and vertices/"corners") and other attributes (e.g., having sides of equal length).
The following activities cater to the common core standards and are perfect for kids who are learning 3D shapes in kindergarten.
Shape Hunt for Kindergarten
This can be done very informally by going on a "Shape Hunt" around your home or neighborhood. If you want to keep track and make it official, bust out a clipboard (or just a book with a chip clip) and make a 3D shape tracker, so kids can keep track of what they see.
What shapes are around your home? Are they 2D and flat? Are they 3D and pop up? The kitchen has a lot of great shapes...
If you'd like to download our shape hunt to do with a kiddo learning 3D shapes in kindergarten, just click the picture below. Available for a limited time for only $1.11!
Teachers: Feel free to use this activity for teaching 3D shapes. Kindergarten rocks!
Roll, Slide, Stack the 3D Shapes in Kindergarten
This out of the box shapes activity is the perfect at home invitation to play or a kindergarten math center that EVERY child adores.
Remember when I said, kids think outside the box? Well instead of just comparing the sides of shapes or corners, let's compare how they move in space.
Does the 3D shape slide? Does it roll? Can you stack it?
Want our hands on learning printable recording sheet? Click HERE.
For kids learning 3D shapes in kindergarten, having independent activities is key! The recording sheet has visuals for each step, so that if your child isn't reading yet, they can still do this on their own.
Just PRINT the recording sheet. Set up an area with the 3D shapes and a makeshift slide and play. Kids will LOVE comparing and contrasting 3D shapes as they play to learn.
"Clue" Shape Activity for Kindergarten
This "Who Done It" game elicits very thoughtful responses from kindergarteners. Line up all the 3D shapes in what will be the criminal line up.
Announce that one of these shapes has committed a crime. Kids are adamant about ensuring the justice will be served.
Decide who committed the crime! (Write your answer on a sheet of paper, ie The smallest blue cone.)
Have your child ask YES OR NO questions that describe the shapes in the line up to eliminate them by their attributes.
For example, "Does this 3D shape have a circle on one side? Does this 3D shape have vertices (corners)?"
Weed out the innocent shapes till you find the criminal among your 3D shapes (but make sure it gets a fair trial).
Are you looking for more ways to engage students when teaching 3D shapes? Kindergarten students love...
My long time friend and partner teacher is a pro at teaching 3D shapes. Kindergarten teacher, Mr. B of Mr. B's Brain shares and compares many 2D and 3D shapes in his viral 2D vs 3D shapes video.
I love how he describes the difference between 2D and 3D shapes in a way that is so simple to understand for young learners.
2D shapes go two ways: side to side and up and down. In contract, 3D shapes go three ways: up and down, side to side, and back and forth. Check it out!
Using our Forward With Fun hands on learning activities with this video from Mr. B's Brain, it'll be a blast learning 3D shapes in kindergarten.