Tot School: Intro to Shapes


Some find the idea of planning activities for two year olds crazy.   But as a former teacher, I can rarely go a day without planning in my head.  It used to be U.S. History that I saw everywhere (Pool noodles on sale? Those would make great bayonets for a Civil War battle! Controversial Dixie Chicks song? Perfect for our freedom of speech discussion!).  Now that I’m a parent of a toddler, it’s a little different (Extra coffee beans? just the thing for the brown sensory bin! Worn out frying pan? Put it in the yard for the future mud kitchen!)  It’s what we teachers do. I can’t not plan. I’m a teacher without a classroom.  Now that our world is our classroom, I still need to have a little bit of structure in my life. So, it’s as much for me as it is for her.

We don’t have a set time for doing this. I just wait until we run out of normal life things to do or she’s getting bored or I need something for her to do while I get something else done, etc.

I like the structure of knowing I have something we can do each day, but I also like the fact that if we miss something because we are busy, we can just do it the next day. Or not at all!

So here’s the list of things I did for about two weeks. I ended up having a great time planning it, and she had a great time doing it all.

My goals for the end of the two weeks:

(Just something I kept in mind during the two weeks. Not some set in stone, required objectives that need to be tested. I knew she’d either get it or not. I also knew that I wasn’t going to keep going until she mastered it. Two weeks was enough time for me…to get really bored with shapes. 🙂

  1. Be able to correctly identify what a circle, triangle, square and rectangle are (if already knows can do star, oval, heart and/or diamond)
  2. Understand that shapes are everywhere.

Art Activities

Tot School: Intro to Shapes Unit

I hadn’t planned on doing this, but she liked the ones I printed so much, and I was out of ink. So I made them. They aren’t the best drawn shapes, but they worked.

(In order that we did them. We did some a few times since she liked them so much.)

  1. Tot Time Notebook Pages on shapes, found here. Use dots markers (she really likes these) to put a dot on each shape. She loved this and did all of them. “Another one!”
  2. Draw a bunch of shapes on a piece of paper. Have them put dots or stamps on each shape. (She only did the second part of this, since she can’t draw shapes yet.)
  3. My Shapes Book and Tracing, Cutting Shapes (Can color, use dots, trace, stamp, etc. depending on what he/she wants to do. My daughter liked dots and stamping.)
  4. Sponge painting in bath (did not do this very well, but liked it. I just let her use them on the wall of the bathtub and stuck a piece of paper over it for an imprint. She did this quite a few times during the two weeks.)
  5. Contact paper – Stick pieces of cut out shapes on it. Then cover with contact paper and cut them into shapes. (She liked to look at the finished product a lot more than actually doing it. I think the contact paper was up for about a week and a half before it had enough shapes to look like something more than just contact paper. :))
  6. Contact collage: glue shapes on paper (glitter glue worked really well)
  7. Color matching the shapes.  I can’t find the link, but I printed a page with a smiley face made out of a bunch of circles, squares and triangles.  The directions asked for each shape to be a certain color (color all the triangles red, etc.)  So you could do this with any print out or make your own.

Tot School: Intro to Shapes Unit

How did she not end up with pools of glue? I didn’t open the glue all the way, so it took a little bit of effort on her part to squeeze it out. But I think the glitter glue is thicker too, so that helped. She also tried to untwist it more, so I had to keep telling her she couldn’t touch that part.

Bath Fun

  1. foam shapes
  2. sponges cut into shapes

Tot School: Intro to Shapes Unit

She is not scared of shapes, I’m assuming. But she does like eating the “pizza” she made.

Active Activities

  1. Shapes in motion song (see below)
  2. Go around the house looking for shapes
  3. Draw shapes on ground and run/ride bike to them (didn’t get to this one, but she would’ve liked it)
  4. Used foam circles and triangles that I found at Target and she put them in a long line and jumped along it/on them.

Tot Trays and Environment

  1.  Shape puzzles (We have this one.)
  2. A few rectangular things around the house (she was having a hard time deciphering between rectangles and squares, so I did a rectangular one, but it could be any shape.)
  3. Got all the rectangular blocks and put them on a tray.
  4. Put up a shapes poster
  5. Put out the shapes sorters (We happened to have two. A simple one (similar to this but with a rectangle rather than a “L” shape) and a more complex one. And this one at grandma’s. She was much better at putting them in by the end of the two weeks, but still not perfect.)
  6. Pointed out shapes in our food (circle crackers, square cheese, rectangle sandwich slices, etc.)
  7. We also played some matching shape games.

Music Videos

(They are in the order that I showed them. I showed one and waited two days before showing the next. So we watched each quite a few times during the two weeks.)

  1. Shapes Song 2
  2. The Shapes Song
  3. Shapes
  4. Richard Scarry’s Best Learning Songs Video (this one is only the first five min or so)


  1. Baby Newton: Discovering Shapes
  2. Sesame Street: Shapes (My daughter didn’t appreciate this one, but your child might. I liked it. 🙂
  3. Barney-Shapes Clip (Full episode here)
  4. Blues Clues Shapes and Colors


(These are just ones I found at the library (or own*). I’m sure there are a ton more out there.)

  1. Caillou Concept Book-Colors and Shapes Everywhere!
  2. Circus-Ehlert
  3. Mouse Shapes-Walsh
  4. My Heart Is Like a Zoo-Hall
  5. My Very First Book of Shapes-Carle* (Got it for $3.99 at TJ Maxx. They had quite a few Carle books.)
  6. Perfect Square-Hall
  7. Shape Capers-Falwell


(I cut out large shapes to hold. You’ll need a set of two for the second song, one for the little one and one for you (or your husband in my case :)).

What Shape is this? – sung to “The Muffin Man”

Do you know what shape this is,
What shape this is, what shape this is?
Do you know what shape this is
I’m holding in my hand?

Shapes In Motion

(There is more to this song, but I didn’t think it necessary for one, 23 month old.)

Shapes in Motion – sung to “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”

Hold your circles high.
circles touch the ground.
Put your circles on your head.
Let’s all spin around.
Put your circles on your shoulder.
circles jump up and down.

Repeat for other shapes

Free Apps

(Didn’t want to pay for any just yet since each has at least three or four options in the free version. And that’s enough for her now.)

Toy Tangram by Tab Tale

Shapes by Toddler Teasers (it’s in the quizzes section)

Toddler Puzzles-Shapes by Technolio

Shape up! Lite by Busy Things

Memory Match by Kid Baby Toddler, LTD (one of the options is to match shapes)

The results in our house:

At the end of the second week, she had mastered identifying shapes and seemed to understand that there were shapes all over. My first favorite moment was when she noticed an oval hole in a leaf. But that moment was trumped after our two weeks was up. We went to stay at my aunt’s house. After hanging out in the pool, we headed up to the house for showers.  In the bathroom, I hear, “Look, mom, hexagon…octagon.” I was like, “what”? Thinking she was just saying stuff, then I looked at her. And was amazed!

Tot School: Intro to Shapes Unit

We hadn’t really focused on those shapes, but she’d heard them in the songs and colored a few from some of the print outs. So she ended up with an awareness of a multi-sided shape. Cool! After that, she then walked to the kitchen pointing out the square skylights and the circle clocks. I think two weeks of pointing out shapes finally got to her. Fortunately, she has since subsided from pointing out every shape she sees 🙂

Lesson Learned: Hendecagon and Dodecagon are shapes.  Who knew?

For more ideas and activities, check out my Pinterest page: Shapes Theme (Toddler/Preschool/K)

Part of a series of themes and units.  You can find the whole list here.










2 Replies to “Tot School: Intro to Shapes”

  1. Take a plain sheet of paper. Down the left hand margin, draw a circle, square, triangle, and rectangle. Now it’s time to be a shape detective and go on a shape hunt. Walk slowly through your classroom and school. Each time you find something that matches one of the shapes, make a check mark next to that shape. When you have finished your shape hunt, count all of the shapes you found. Which shape did you find the most times? Which did you find the least? How many shapes did you find altogether. This is an excellent visual discrimination activity in which children pick out shapes hidden in common objects. Beginning detectives may want to focus on only one shape at a time.

  2. That is a great one, Xavier! I plan on doing this unit each year for the next few years as she refines her knowledge of shapes. I will definitely include this activity in it next year. Thanks!

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