These free printable shape flashcards + hands-on learning activities give you everything you need to help your child master basic two- and three-dimensional shapes in fun and creative ways.
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It’s back to school season! I usually love this time of year, with the hubbub and excitement of new teachers, new shoes, new friends, and new things to learn.
This year has been….hard. To say the least. We’re starting the year virtually, and everything feels a little uncertain and uncomfortable.
Everyone I’ve talked to seems to be in the same boat. Whether your kids are going back to school in person, learning virtually, or homeschooling, there are a lot of question marks hovering in the air.
I don’t like feeling like things are out of my control (Type-A personality, anyone???), but I feel like that’s kind of the name of the game this year.
I’m coping by finding small things I can control…like planning homeschool preschool for my soon-to-be three-year-old.
So in honor of the new school year, I made a new set of flashcards:
They are perfect for teaching any toddlers or preschoolers that you have at home this year.
Why is learning shapes important?
Learning shapes is an essential preschool and kindergarten skill. It’s in the Common Core curriculum:
- Identify basic two- and three-dimensional shapes
- Describe shapes in the real-world contexts
- Use basic shapes to construct more complex shapes
But why do these skills matter for a child?
Learning shapes is a stepping stone on the path of learning to read. After all, letters are simply lines and shapes put together in different ways, right? Furthermore, words are patterns of those shapes. As kids learn to sort and identify shapes, they are gaining the tools they will need to discuss and differentiate between letters and numbers later on.
What I love about these shape flashcards:
There are lots of printable flashcards out there…so why did I take the time to make a new set? Here are three reasons this set is special:
- They are big (1/4 page). This makes them easy to read and easy for little hands to grab and manipulate.
- They are colorful! Kids love color, and these flashcards are bright and inviting. Still, I’ve kept the shapes themselves simple (no cartoon character squares and such) so kids can see and focus on the basic lines.
- They include both 2D and 3D shapes. If you’re anything like me, you might not have thought a lot about teaching your child 3D shapes. But they exist, and every kindergartner is supposed to learn them! This set of flashcards gives you the five most common 3D shapes to practice with your child.
Ready to download your flashcards?
How to make your flashcards last–let’s talk laminating:
I highly recommend laminating your flashcards to make them last longer. You can certainly use them without doing so, but paper only lasts so long in the hands of a toddler…if you know what I mean.
If you don’t have a laminator, I have to say, I think every mom needs one. They come in SO handy, especially if you are the type to do learning activities at home with your child (which you probably are, since you’re reading a blog post about DIY flash cards…just sayin’).
I have this Purple Cows Laminator, and it’s been working great for me for five years and counting. Sadly, this particular brand is hard to find these days, but Scotch also makes a really good, basic laminator that is budget-friendly.
How NOT to use these flashcards:
DON’T drill...I don’t recommend sitting your toddler down and flipping through card after card. Yes, that’s how people traditionally think of flashcards, but there are so many other ways to learn and play!
Kids learn best with hands-on opportunities that connect academic learning to their daily life and real-world experiences. Keep reading for some fun learning activities to do with these shape flashcards.
DON’T try to tackle all 20 shapes at once. Instead, start out with just 3 or 4 of the basic shapes, and pick an activity below to practice them with your child. As your child masters these initial shapes, you can add more complex shapes to your activities.
How to use shape flashcards: 11 creative activities
1. Shape scavenger hunt
Choose a shape from the deck of cards and invite your child to hunt around the house for items that match that shape. Point them out as you find items, and if possible, gather them to a designated spot. For example, if you choose “circle” you could point out a cake pan, a wheel on a toy car, a cookie, etc.
2. Book scavenger hunt
Choose a shape from the deck of cards and have your child hold the card while you read a picture book together. Encourage your child to point out pictures in the book that match their “special shape”. For example, if you choose “square” your child might point to a window or a box in the book.
3. Sorting paper shapes
Choose 2-4 shapes from the deck of flashcards. Then, cut out an assortment of your chosen shapes in various sizes. Encourage your child to sort the shapes by type and place the cut-outs next to the matching flashcard.
4. Cutting paper
Give your child a piece of paper and a pair of scissors. Shuffle the flashcards and place them face down. Flip one over, and challenge your child to cut that shape from the paper. If needed, you can draw the shape on the paper so your child has guiding lines to follow.
5. Sensory drawing
Choose a shape from the deck of cards and invite your child to draw the indicated shape in a salt tray or using mess free paint. Repeat with each shape. As your child draws, talk about the shape’s name, how many sides it has, and any other defining characteristics.
6. Geo-board shapes
7. Tracing play dough shapes
Don’t bother with cookie cutters…all you need to practice making shapes is your two hands! Make “snakes” (long skinny pieces of play dough) and connect them together to make the shapes on the cards.
This is a great way to talk with kids about how many sides a shape has because you have to make the “snakes” of play dough for each side. If your cards are laminated, you can lay the play dough right on top of the card to “trace” the shape.
Related: The BEST homemade play dough recipe
8. Building shape towers
Gather a pile of blocks that match the three-dimensional cards. With your child, draw three flashcards. Find the matching blocks and use them to stack a tower.
Or, draw one card and roll a die to see how MANY cubes or cylinders to add to your tower. Keep drawing, rolling, and stacking until your tower falls over. Then play again!
9. Make patterns
Choose 2-3 flashcards from your deck and arrange them in an order of your (or your child’s) choice. On a large piece of paper (we love the big rolls of paper you can buy at IKEA), draw the chosen shapes in order, and repeat it several times to make a pattern. Once you’re done drawing, “read” your shapes together, repeating aloud the shape pattern you’ve created. Shuffle the shapes and try it again with a new pattern.
10. Bigger or smaller
Similar to the shape scavenger hunt above (see #1), this version has a twist perfect for older preschoolers and kindergartners. Flip over a card and hunt for shapes around the house…but give your child the added challenge of finding something bigger or smaller than the shape on the card. You could even flip a coin (e.g.- heads means find a triangle bigger than the one on the card. Tails means find a triangle smaller than the one on the card).
11. Sidewalk chalk shape jumping
If the weather is nice, take your learning outside! Draw several shapes (matching the ones on the flashcards) on the patio or driveway. Flip over a card from your deck and encourage your child to jump onto the matching shape on the ground. Flip a new card and continue playing.
Love these shape flashcards? Try these other fun learning activities:
- Free Printable Alphabet Flashcards (upper and lowercase)
- Free Printable Number Flashcards (+ counting cards)
- Alphabet Kaboom! (a simply brilliant preschool game)
- Don’t Touch the Lava! (preschool learning game)