Asian toddler building block tower DreamstimeBefore kids learn to read and write, they must recognize shapes and distinguish between patterns. Then they can tackle letter recognition and start distinguishing between letters like A & O and M & W, etc.  Play and learning go hand in hand. Play is a crucial mode of learning, so allowing little ones to investigate their world while supporting their natural curiosity is important.

Block play develops creativity, social skills, math, language and science (Teaching Numeracy, Language and Literacy with Blocks by Newburger). Babies and toddlers will feel blocks, pick them up, put them in their mouths. Older children who play with blocks and other manipulatives will learn to create patterns and sequences of shapes, as well as colors and textures. There are many fun ways to develop shape and letter recognition– here are favorite books and activities you can try at home.

Picture Books

My Shapes/Mis formas by Rebecca Emberley

Animal Spots and Stripes (and A Starfish: A Shapes Book) by Britta Techentrup

GO! and others (Flip-A Shape books) by Sami

It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles Green Shaw

Mouse Shapes by Ellen Stoll Walsh

Shapes, Shapes, Shapes by Tana Hoban

Little Cloud by Eric Carle

Follow the Line series by Laura Ljungkvist

Color Zoo by Lois Ehlert

Easy Nonfiction

Shape by Shape by Suse MacDonald

Eating Fractions by Bruce McMillan

Round is a Mooncake: a book of shapes by Roseanne Thong

Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman

Shape (Math Counts) by Henry Pluckrose

Circles, Stars, and Squares: Looking for Shapes by Jane Brocket

 School Age

The Shape of Me and Other Stuff by Dr. Seuss

Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature by Sarah C. Campbell

Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature by Sarah C. Campbell

When a Line Bends…A Shape Begins by Rhonda Gowler Greene


1) Make a DIY shape sorter from cardboard or an empty oatmeal container 

2)  Go on a shape hunt– look for shapes in the environment; Create a car game by using a cookie sheet and attaching magnets to the back of shapes for your child to play with.

3)  Cut out shapes in different sizes or make puffy paint shape cards and let your child play with them. These two-dimensional shapes are different from the three-dimensional blocks which will encourage a different kind of play. You can also make shapes using playdough.

4) Make a shapes book, helping child paste cutout images of different shapes; label each page with circle, square, etc.