There are many Montessori materials that promote learning about shapes however if chosen carefully there are also some great materials to be found in toy stores. Puzzles and shape sorters are good examples. Look for high quality materials preferably using natural materials such as wood. I have also included some activities using materials from around the home that promote learning about shapes and will assist with coordination and concentration.
1. Large shape puzzle
Large shape puzzles are for many children their first introduction to shapes. A child around nine to twelve months may be interested in the circle as this is the easiest shape to put back into the puzzle. The child will over time move to the square and then the triangle. Large knobbed handles are important so the child can use the puzzle easily and they also promote the early use of the pincer grip.
Shape pinning and cutting introduce the child to the edges of shapes. These activities are best suited to a child from two years.
Pinning uses shapes printed on paper attached to a corkboard. I have used masking tape. The child uses a pin-board pin/tack to pin around the shape. The shape of the pin/tack encourages the use of the pincer grip that prepares the hand for writing. This activity is also good for coordination and concentration.
Cutting out a shape uses a shape printed on paper and some scissors. The scissors need to be sharp but use ones with a rounded tip and that are the right size for your child’s hand. Cutting as we know is also great for coordination and will build up strength in the child’s hand.
3. Matching shape outlines
This is a simple activity that allows the child to explore different shapes and their many sides. This requires shapes printed and laminated and coloured matchsticks. I match the colour of the shape to the colour of the matchsticks and only put out the corresponding number of matchsticks to the number of sides of the shape. For example I put in the dish five yellow matchsticks for the five-sided yellow pentagon. The child chooses a shape and outlines the shape with the matchsticks. When printing out the shapes it is important to ensure the length of the sides are the same length as the matchsticks so they match precisely.
4. Shape sorters
Shape sorters are great for cognitive development and space perception skills. The shape sorter on the top left is suitable for a younger child from around one year. The graduated shape sorter is for children from around two years.
5. Patterning with shapes
These materials allow children of different ages to experiment with shapes to make patterns, abstract pictures and discover how shapes fit together. The hammering activity is a favourite with children from around two years and uses the child’s fine motor skills in the handling of the pins/nails.
The mosaic shape pieces are best for an older child, most likely a child five to seven would be interested in making geometric shapes and patterns that can also be very visually stimulating.
Always remember to follow your child’s lead. Observe your child and try to match the activity to their interests and skill level. If the child isn’t interested in the activity leave it out for a week or so or try again later. If the child still doesn’t show any interest it may be best to put it away for a while and try another activity.
Kylie D’Alton has two sons and blogs at how we montessori about raising them the Montessori way.