Seek and Find Shapes Water Activity

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Toddlers always love the chance for a little splashy water play, and here’s a way to combine that with shape review!

To start, I used marker to draw a few shapes on a regular piece of white paper. I also labeled them for early sight words, although Veronika is a ways off from understanding that.

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Place this piece of paper under any clear baking dish. Ideally use a large casserole dish, but even my smaller cake pan worked in a pinch. Fill the clear dish with a shallow layer of water. If your child wants colored water, go ahead and add a few drops of food coloring! But Veronika wanted to leave it clear.

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Now, simply call out the name of a shape and your child can pinpoint it under the water! If you’re using a large dish, you could have a clear cup on top that your child moves from shape to shape. That wouldn’t fit in the cake pan, so Veronika used a shiny pipe cleaner as a pointer instead.

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She aced this test in moments.

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Even once we quickly ran through the shapes, she had so much fun looking at the shapes and swirling around the pipe cleaner for a while. Because as mentioned, toddlers always love water play!

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Touch and Feel Shapes Board

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Veronika loves the bumpy feel of hot glue, so when I spotted this fun, tactile way to help a toddler learn shapes, I knew we had to try it!

Ideally I would have liked to make the shape outlines on sturdy poster board, but construction paper worked fine in a pinch. Using hot glue, make the outlines of as many shapes as you can fit on your piece of paper.

Of course the wonder of hot glue is how quickly it sets and cools, so within moments, I set this down in front of Veronika to explore.

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She immediately started shouting out the names of the shapes she saw. I showed her how to run her fingers around the bumpy lines of each, and she delighted in the feel. Without knowing it, this can be your toddler’s first introduction to tracing, which itself is the precursor to someday drawing shapes with a pencil!

There was lots more we could do with this little piece of paper. Veronika liked filling in the outlines with dried beans since the bumpy hot glue made little “containers”. If your child is learning to count, you can also count out the beans as you add them!

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Next we placed a piece of white paper on top and I showed Veronika how to make shape rubbings.

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She wasn’t very interested in that activity, but did like using a marker to color directly in the lines of each shape.

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Overall, this was a simple activity that’s easy to set up and extend in multiple ways.

Move & Learn Shapes with a Ball + Tape

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I’ve combined shape learning with gross motor skills before, but this was a great twist on the activity. Veronika has added a few new shapes to her repertoire, and she’s also been interested in learning all the various ways that she can move a ball lately (kicking, bouncing, rolling). This activity combined both beautifully!

On the floor, I first made giant shapes with masking tape, adding one of each she knows so far (minus the circle, which is tricky to make out of tape!). We ended up with: square, rectangle, triangle, star, pentagon, and hexagon.

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I handed her a bouncy ball and let the game begin! From here, simply give your toddler instructions for both how to move the ball and which shape to move it to.

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“Bounce the ball to the triangle!” I told her. Or, “Kick the ball to the star.”

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Sometimes I let her pick a shape, and simply let her get the ball there anyway she wanted. But she had to tell me the shape each time!

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This was great for shape review, and I loved that it got her thinking more about kicking and tossing the ball, since her fall-back has usually been bouncing.

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Simple Block Learning: Shapes and Colors

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This idea was an extension on recent block puzzle play with Veronika. But this time, she had to puzzle out two variables at once: color and shape.

To start, I laid down a sheet of butcher paper and began to trace some of her soft foam blocks, making sure to use a corresponding crayon color for every block color.

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She immediately was naming shapes and colors as I worked and wanted to trace (i.e. scribble) alongside me! In retrospect, I would set this up while she was napping for a cleaner piece of paper.

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But eventually, I had enough shapes traced for the real puzzling to begin. It was neat to see her mind work through this activity. She immediately put a red triangle in place when I pointed out the red outline.

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Rectangles threw her off since we had both short ones and long ones, and she tended to either mix up the two or orient her rectangles in the wrong direction.

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Often, she proudly laid down a shape in the right outline (e.g. square in square), without any regard for the color.

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And all of that was perfectly fine! I loved that this was a challenge for her, and how gamely she rose to it.

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The activity also lends itself perfectly to extended play. Once all those shapes were in place, we could start connecting them like bridges into ever-bigger structures and towers.

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Without any prompting, she trotted away and then brought back a toy car. Now we had tunnels for cars to go through or garages to park them in!

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We eventually re-positioned the blocks into one long road for her to drive cars down, which she loved.

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She played solo so happily and I caught her driving cars up one side of a triangle block and down the other, almost like it was a mini mountain.

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And through all of this, she kept up the narrative of shapes and colors to herself. This activity was a true joy.

Smart Art

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For toddlers who know their shapes, this art activity is a fun next-step up, getting them to think about how shapes link together to form familiar objects.

To start, I cut out various shapes from multiple colors of construction paper, including hearts and diamonds, as well as familiar favorites like rectangles and triangles.

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Now, guide your toddler through turning these various shapes into things they see in the world. If I put down a square, could she put a triangle on top to make it the roof of a house?

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She could! I talked her through what other shapes we might see around a house, like a smaller square for the door, or a circular sun in the sky. The concept was easiest for her if I squirted glue down in a corresponding shape first. So if she saw a circle of glue, she could glue down a circle of paper.

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Now she had a moon in her city sky! The same was true as I coached her through triangular mountains or tall rectangles for city buildings.

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Of course you can also just let your toddler have fun and glue the shapes wherever he or she wants to! Veronika did a bit of this, too, adding her own creative stamp to the project.

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We ended up with a fun variety of scenes, including one that looked like a city at night and another that resembled a mountain landscape.

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Solve with Me Panda Crate

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Veronika’s latest Panda Crate, Solve with Me, was easily her favorite yet. With an emphasis on shapes, puzzles, and problem-solving for kids (aged about 18 months and up), here’s what she received.

One: Peg Puzzle

First up was a classic shape puzzle, with a square peg for squares, triangle peg for triangles, and so on. To start I simply laid out all the pieces and she had to figure out what went where.

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As soon as I asked, “Can you put the triangle on the triangle?” she had the idea. The puzzle is also great for colors (“How about the blue square next?”) and for counting, since it ranged from 1 circle to 3 squares.

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Two: Lacing Beads

This was the best child’s lacing toy I’ve ever seen. The “needle” is actually made of stiff felt, but pokes easily through the wooden beads. Peek-a-boo, pull it through!

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She loved that she could master this lacing all by herself. She also loved when I showed her a pattern (early math!): square, semi circle, triangle, repeat!

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The thread and needle also come with two giant buttons, so you can even teach your older toddler how to make a crisscross. Parent bonus: you can store the beads right on the lace.

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Three: Squishy Shapes

These giant shapes were Veronika’s favorite of the lot, first of all because they were just so squishy and big, like stuffed animal friends in geometric form!

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We laid them down and first used them for gross motor skills. Give your toddler instructions like “Hop to the triangle!” or “Run to the square!” and watch him or her happily comply.

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She had a blast with this game. Then I held her hands and helped her “trace” each shape with her feet, almost like mini balance beams.

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Toddlers can also trace a finger along the inside of each shape, which has immediate tactile rewards and larger learning benefit for pen control later on.

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Finally, we sorted the other items from the crate onto them, which was great for helping her categorize shapes.

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Four: Beanbag Shapes

These classic beanbags, one each for triangle, circle, and square, extended the squishy shape play. Firstly, each one nests perfectly on the inside cut-out of the corresponding squishy shape.

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“Let’s the put the triangle here!” Veronika proudly said, and narrated this play solo to herself for a while. Don’t forget to point out size comparisons, like how the beanbag makes a little circle and the squishy shape makes a big one.

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Second, we played hide and seek! I tucked a beanbag under its corresponding squishy shape and she proudly found it each time.

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Finally, it was gross motor skills time! Move the squishy shapes back a few steps and take aim with the beanbags. Veronika also adored this part, and we’ll work up to throwing from further away.

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Five: Board Book

As with past crates, I was disappointed in the caliber of the book. There was so much more that could be done for a shape-themed book, starting with having the book come in a fun shape. Still, Wonder magazine suggested using this book for a shape hunt.

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You can extend this idea to your child’s favorite books from home. Veronika spotted diamonds, triangles, and more in one of her go-to books!

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In Wonder magazine, parents can read more about the benefits of letting your toddler puzzle solo, as well as tricks for when those little brains get frustrated.

We did a final activity of a Shape Scavenger Hunt in two ways. First, I drew shapes on 4 index cards in big bold colors.

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Time for Veronika to pick a card! As we went through each one, we made a pile of items in that shape on the floor.

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Rectangle was the only one not included in the crate, so I could see her brain working extra hard when it came to finding items in that shape.

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As a variation, I then traced several shapes onto white paper, this time including heart and star for some outliers.

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You can head off around the house and find one item for each shape. Or, use the paper more like a shadow-matching puzzle and have your toddler fill it in with 3-D versions of each shape.

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Since music always aids in learning, we sang a shape song to the tune of The Farmer in the Dell:

A circle’s like a ball,

A circle’s like a ball.

Round and round,

It never stop.

A circle’s like a ball.

Make up verses for every other shape your toddler knows, too!

Finally, it was storytime. We had fun checking the following three out at the library:

  • Shapes, by John Reiss
  • Curious Baby Everyday Shapes Puzzle Book, by H.A. Rey
  • Sweet Shapes by Juana Medina Rosas

Craft-Stick Matching

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Here’s a great DIY puzzle for toddlers who have recently learned their shapes. Matching up the outlines of craft stick is great for fine motor skills, too!

To set up, I arranged jumbo craft sticks on plain white paper and traced the outlines. I made one page each for a triangle, square, and diamond, and decided to trace each shape with a different color just in case we wanted to add a color component to the game.

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I also then colored on the craft sticks with crayon in corresponding colors. We now had a red triangle, green square, and purple diamond.

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Now slip each shape into a zip-top plastic bag and show your toddler how to line the craft sticks up over each outline.

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Because there’s nothing to hold the craft sticks in place as in a puzzle board, Veronika’s shapes were always a little askew, but she certainly had the right idea!

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There was even a happy victory dance after she finished the triangle!

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I loved watching her puzzle through exactly where each stick should go.

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It turned out that she mixed and matched the colors, rather than placing a purple stick in a purple outline, etc., but that was just fine, too.

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Glitter Shapes

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You’ll combine early learning (shape-recognition, colors) and messy art with this fun toddler project!

To start, I cut out simple basic shapes from bright construction paper, using a different color for each shape. Soon we had a pile of green rectangles, purple triangles, red hearts, orange circles, and more. As I worked, I asked Veronika to identify each one, and she was a willing participant.

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Now for the mess! Have your toddler smear a glue stick all over each shape. One or both sides, it won’t matter!

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Place one or two shapes at a time in a small shoebox with a lid, then dump in copious amounts of glitter. Yes, toddlers, the more glitter the merrier!

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Now seal the box and shake. I hadn’t counted on small holes in the bottom of our box that allowed some glitter to escape, but luckily we were using large pieces of glitter that were easy to sweep up.

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Needless to say, the result was worth the mess.

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Open the lid and reveal to your child how each shape is now sparkly. Veronika loved them!

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Matching Craft Stick Shapes

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In addition to making for a great learning activity, foam craft sticks are also a fantastic tub toy! You can tailor this game for toddlers up to elementary school kids.

Ahead of time, I labeled various craft sticks with the names of shapes, as well as the symbol of that shape. Make sure you have enough of each to actually form that shape So for example you’ll need 3 labeled craft sticks for a triangle and 4 for a square.

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At bath time, at first I simply tossed in all the sticks! Elementary school kids can hunt them down, finding the name or symbol of each shape and then forming it on the tub wall.


For Veronika as a toddler, obviously I had to guide her through the activity. We looked at each craft stick and I asked her what shape she saw. Then I guided her hands to build them against the wall.


At first she was more interested in the colors of the sticks. But once she saw the shapes take, well, shape, she began naming them with interest. “Rectangle!” she chirped.


We went up as high as a pentagon, which was a new shape for her vocabulary, but she soon start saying, “Let’s make a pentagon.”


Both Veronika and big brother Travis loved seeing if we could make a circle, using enough craft sticks.


And after that, the extra craft sticks are just gloriously fun in the bath.

Block Sorter

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Veronika loves her bus shape-sorter toy, with slots on top for squares, triangles, and circles, but with one caveat: she can’t open it back up to retrieve the shapes once they’re inside! I solved the problem for her today with this quick DIY version.

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Use any shoebox with a lid (brother Travis’s old Kiwi Crate was perfect) and cut holes for each shape you’ll be using. Veronika loved watching me work: “Mommy’s cutting a triangle!” and the triangle had to go right in. “Mommy’s making a square!” She tested each hole as it was made.

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Now all of the shapes were inside.

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I showed her that she could open the lid… all by herself! She was thrilled. “Triangle is inside!” she said, but not for long. She took them out for a second round, now having to find and fill all three holes with the shapes in a jumble, which was a great challenge.

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I loved that she could use this toy solo. She was evidently so proud of it that she wanted to pick it up and carry it around with her!

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A definite hit, for almost no effort at all on my part.

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