Engaging and hands-on activities for teaching and practicing 3D shapes with little learners. Don’t miss the 3D shape flipbook available as a free download!
When we introduce and teach 3D shapes to young children, we are not only helping them develop spatial awareness and geometry concepts, but we are also setting them up for success in future math lessons and everyday life. In this blog post, we will explore 10 hands-on activities plus additional resources that will make the learning process fun and engaging for your kindergarten students.
Before diving into the world of 3D shapes, it’s essential to ensure that our students have a solid understanding of shapes in general. Start by explaining to them what shapes are – the outlines or patterns we see in different objects. Help them differentiate between 2D shapes (flat shapes like circles, squares, and triangles) and 3D shapes (objects that have length, width, and depth).
The ability to recognize and classify shapes is a fundamental skill that fosters cognitive development. Teaching our kindergartners to identify shapes will aid their problem-solving abilities and overall visual perception. They will be better equipped to analyze patterns, understand geometry, and make connections between shapes and real-life objects.
What Are 3D Shapes?
When your kindergarten friends have a clear understanding of 2D shapes, it is time to introduce them to the concept of 3D shapes. Explain that 3D shapes are objects that have three dimensions – length, width, and depth. Unlike 2D shapes, which are flat, 3D shapes are solid and can be held. Some examples of common 3D shapes they should become familiar with include cubes, spheres, cylinders, cones, and pyramids.
To help our students identify these shapes, we can encourage hands-on exploration and allow students to touch and examine 3D shapes. This tactile experience will deepen their understanding of the characteristics that distinguish 3D shapes from their 2D counterparts.
Books About 3D Shapes
Books and songs are great learning resources to get exposure to geometric shapes. Plus if you can get students up and moving while practicing shape recognition, they are sure to have so much fun!
Kids love space! This MathStart book is about Captain Invincible and his space dog, Comet and their journey back to Earth. They encounter obstacles along the way but use 3D shapes to help them make it home safely.
3D Shape Songs
You can find several videos about three-dimensional shapes. Here are a couple of good ones!
3D Shape Song by Hopscotch
This one made me start dancing in my chair! It includes your basic 3D shapes but also shows a rectangular prism and triangular prisms as well.
3D Shapes I Know by Harry Kindergarten
This song shows real world objects for a sphere, cube, cylinder, cone, and pyramid.
Teaching 3D Shapes through Play
It’s no secret, young children learn best through play and hands on activities. Incorporating this type of learning into our lessons not only makes learning enjoyable but also enhances retention and understanding. Let’s dive into some hands on 3-D shapes activities that can be completed in small groups, a whole group, or as independent practice in your kindergarten classroom.
1. Build 3D Shapes
Using mini marshmallows and toothpicks, students build different shapes. This may become the most favorite way to practice geometry skills for your students. Who doesn’t love mini marshmallows? Any kind of marshmallow makes me think of the game, Chubby Bunny… That game is so awful but also hilarious! ANYHOW, you can also use play dough to connect the toothpicks together.
2. Shape Scavenger Hunt
Oh! I love doing a shape scavenger hunt while learning about 3D shapes. You can find so many around the school building and also at the playground.
3. Shape Magazine Sort
Gather up your old magazines or grocery store ads and let students search for real life examples of 3D shapes. I have two ideas for this one. Have students use 3D shapes they find to create a design. Or, students can sort the shapes into categories. Use a large piece of construction paper and fold it so you have 4 sections to organize the common 3D shapes for kindergarten – sphere, cone, cylinder, and cube. This could be a fun kindergarten math center task!
4. Kitten Castle - STEM Project
Kitten Castle is another book that includes 3D shapes. After reading the book, students can work in small groups to create their very own kitten castle. Students could use blocks or recycled materials for this STEM project. This may be a project that students work on throughout your 3-D shape unit. You could also invite classroom buddies to help with this activity.
5. Molding 3D Shapes
Molding play dough or even, kinetic sand, is a great way to work on those fine motor skills while creating solid shapes. This would be an awesome idea for your classroom sensory bin.
6. 3D Shape Snacks
There are SO MANY snacks that are 3D shapes! Cheese sticks, cheese cubes, cheese balls… maybe not so much cheese? Anyhow, you get it. Gather up some favorite shape snacks and have fun with shape identification and talking about shape attributes while having a yummy snack.
7. 3D Shape Sort
Involve your families with this one! Send out a parent letter asking for students to bring in 3D figures – recyclable items work really well for this. Set up sorting bins that are labeled with shape names, or the number of faces, or the number of edges of each shape – there are so many different ways you could change up this activity. Then, students can sort the items by different attributes. This is also a great way for students to get exposure to math vocabulary that is displayed on the sorting bins.
8. Shape Towers
Kids love building towers! Provide students with various 3D shape blocks and have them build towers. You can even add visual cards to this station for students to replicate with blocks. Or, you could add this free response sheet and have students draw a picture of their tower and write about what they did to keep it from falling. For example, they may have discovered they can’t use a sphere on the bottom because it rolls away. This activity could work for students in first grade or even second grade, as well!
9. 3D Shape Flip Book
In this activity, students cut and glue real-world object pictures. This flip book is available as a free file at the end of this blog post.
10. Shape Math Centers
Here are a few resources that are the perfect way to practice 3-D shapes during math centers.
Bump games are hands-on games to practice literacy and math skills. This game board has images of real life 3D shapes. These games are so great because you can teach the concept of how to play and then change out the skill and theme of the board game all year long!
This robot shape game and so many others are available in this set:
Pocket Chart Activity
These pocket chart activities are great for centers but also are a fun game to play with your whole group. A student goes to the pocket chart and selects a card. For this specific game, they identify the shape name and then look behind the card to see if there is a hidden carrot.
2D Shape Ideas
Are you looking for activities for teaching 2D shapes? Check out this blog post for some ideas and a free 2-D shape bingo game!
3D Shape Free Download
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