Monday, May 21, 2012

Shapes Unit, aka Baby Geometry

Semicircle is our favorite word around here lately, thanks to some new toys that explore shapes, lines, wholes, parts and more.

This Learning Journey Shape Shuffle set was on sale at Ross for $5, and despite the slippery pieces being a bit hard for a toddler to grapple with, it's a winner. Lots of new vocabulary (right triangle, isosceles triangle) and exploration of shapes in context. Above, Jackson is discovering which other shapes can be combined to form a square: four smaller squares, two rectangles, two right triangles, etc.
Jackson does the hard work of being a toddler while we talk about some more shapes. These are the pieces from an "out-of-print" Melissa & Doug Shapes puzzle I found at a thrift store. An intrepid youngster had written all over the board in permanent marker, and the hexagon was missing, but I harvested the rest of the shapes and keep them in a plastic bag. Jackson likes to fish them out of the drawer and play with them. We've been working on sorting out the ones with curved edges (circle, ellipse/oval, quatrefoil) from the ones with the straight edges (square, rectangle, etc).

Hey look, circles roll! This Guidecraft Shape Sorter that was a gateway drug for several other Guidecraft puzzles that I couldn't resist after getting this one! Actually, I could resist, but then I bought a Ryan's Room version of a fairly shapes puzzle, and it was so cheap and misshapen compared to the wonderful quality of Guidecraft that I figured it was a message from above. Anyway, Jackson's all but mastered this one now...
Now we're working on this Guidecraft Fraction Action Board. Sorting by color is the first order of business! (We also love the Fraction Cups, and I am not untempted by the Fraction Pairs.)
And last but not least, in the midst of building vast "car cities" out of blocks for his plastic trucks, we pull out blocks and books that reinforce some of the vocabulary we've been using. Hey, look, two quadrants make a semicircle! Oh my, two of the arches on the bridge blocks are the same shape as a circle, that must mean a circle is two semicircles!

I was still struggling with triangle types circa junior high, so if the kid has a shot of internalizing some of these concepts early, I'm delighted. Thus, I'm trying to teach ellipse as a synonym for oval and rhombus as a synonym for diamond, and if even a fraction (hee) of this clicks in, I think that it can only be for the good, as encyclopedic knowledge and math concepts are obviously cumulative, so why not begin accumulating early?

P.S. For my money, the very best shape sorter I've encountered anywhere is the Tupperware Shape O Ball Toy, but that lives at grandma and grandpa's house, so no pics of it in action are included here. That said, if you're in the market for shape-teaching toys, do consider it. It's got a great array of shapes, it contributes to fine-motor skill and hand-eye development because the kid has to keep rotating the ball to find the slot, it rolls because it's a ball, it rattles when it rolls if the shapes are inside, the shapes all actually fit inside (not the case for some shape sorters), it pulls open easily to retrieve the shapes, and it's just so darn clever and perfect for actual human kids. Highly recommended.

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