Even babies can recognize the difference between a circle and square, using their sight and sense of touch to distinguish between them. However, learning the names of the different shapes is not an inborn ability, but it is a necessary step in your preschooler’s education. Children need to learn the names of shapes so that 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 as well as letters. Letters are made up of circles, triangles and lines – think of the circles in b, d, g, p, q, or the parts of a triangle found in k, v and w. Drawing the curved lines of a circle or oval shape helps your child to write letters such as f, u, m, n, j, and the lines in squares helps your child to write i, l, k, p, q and so on. Often, recognizing the shapes in the letters helps a child to recognize the letter too, important for developing reading skills.
Drawing shapes is also the first step in learning how to draw. Almost anything can be broken down into shapes, such as a house, a cat, a book, a ball – they can all be drawn with simple shapes. This makes it easier for your child to progress from stick drawings to more detailed artworks – and if they have talent, they will use shapes to draw and paint in the future as well.
Shapes are extremely important in basic and more advanced math. Most adults will immediately think of geometry, but shape patterns and spatial perception help your child to develop sequencing and logic skills that they will use later in their school career in subjects like calculus.
We use shapes every day as adults, although we may not realize it. Think about rearranging the lounge furniture, cleaning out the kitchen cupboards or the refrigerator – all done according to the shape of the items 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 actually read them.
Learning about shapes includes learning about 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional shapes. A sphere, or ball, is a 3D circle, and has specific properties, such as the ability to roll, that some other shapes do not have. This is true of all shapes, and your child will be able to make this progression if his or her basic grounding is good.
For kindergarten, children are expected to know the basic shapes, recognize them and identify how they form part of other items. They may also be expected to be able to draw the shapes – not perfectly, but certainly recognizably. There are many ways to encourage and help your child to learn about shapes.
Because shapes are all around us, it is easy to play ‘Find the Shape’ at home, in the car, in the store and elsewhere. Select one shape at a time to concentrate on, rather than trying to find all the different shapes.
A good set of worksheets for preschool will help your child recognize different shapes, see how they form part of other objects, and help them learn how to draw them. Drawing shapes is the precursor to learning how to write, and a good set of worksheets should take you step-by-step through this process until your child is drawing shapes on their own, free hand. Look out for worksheets that combine learning shapes with the use of different colors, as this is particularly effective in reinforcing the shape names.