Shape Sorters

Help your child learn about numbers, counting, and problem solving!

For this Activity you will need:

  • Foam shapes (rectangle, square, circle, diamond, triangle, star, heart, and oval) in different colors
  1. Spread the shapes in front of your child. Let her look at and play with the shapes.
  2. Ask your child put the shapes into different groups or piles (sort by color, shape, etc.). When she has finished, ask: Which pile has the most? Which pile has the least?
  3. After your child has made a guess, tell her you are going to count the shapes to see how many are in each pile.
  4. Ask your child, which pile she’d like to count first. After she chooses, ask her to count with you. Show her how to count, by pointing at and moving each of the shapes one at a time. Be sure to say the number (one, two, three, etc) as you move the shapes.
  5. Be sure to praise your child if she guessed correctly. If not, explain to your child which pile has the most.
  6. Repeat the activity by asking your child to "sort" the shapes in a different way.

Next Steps/Follow-Up:
  • Make a small pile of shapes and ask your child to guess how many shapes are in the pile. Count with her to check her guess. Challenge your child by making the piles bigger each time.
  • Help your child put the shapes in a line from smallest to largest.
  • Count things in everyday life. For example, count the steps as you go down stairs, count the number of crackers on her plate, count the number of windows in the room or the number of chairs at the table.
  • Have your child make a picture using the shapes. Ask her about her picture: How many blue shapes did you use? How many squares did you use? When she is finished, give her some crayons and have her draw a picture of her what she made with her shapes.
  • Make patterns with the shapes or colors (for example: red circle, blue circle, red circle, blue circle…). Ask your child what she thinks will come next in the pattern.
  • Read counting books with your child. Be sure to point to the pictures as you count. Some good ones include: Counting Kisses by Karen Katz; One Fish, Two Fish by Dr. Seuss; One Two, Three by Sandra Boynton; 10 Little Ladybugs by Melanie Gerth.

Background Information:

Mathematical thinking involves:

  • Sorting objects by different traits (color, shape, or texture).
  • Using words to describe things and what they are used for.
  • Identifying and copying simple patterns.
  • Using words to talk about position (over, under, in, top, bottom, etc.) and order (first, next, last etc.).
  • Counting objects.
  • Using words to communicate an understanding of numbers and relationships (more, less, equal, etc.)

When your child starts school, she will be more likely to do well if she is able to do these things.


You can help build your child’s mathematical thinking skills by doing this activity.

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