2D & 3D Shapes

It's about that time of the year....for us anyway...to introduce & reinforce 2D & 3D shapes (concepts and ideas).  Does that hold true for you, too? Shape identification and geometrical language are always among my favorite concepts/skills to teach.  Hands-on and engaging and so many connections to the real world!  And for our kids, shapes are tangible.  They can feel real world shapes.  They can play with them.  They can even identify shapes in the environment around them.  Shapes are EVERYWHERE!  And shapes are among the earliest objects they learn, recognize, and identify (thank you, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and every Disney and Nick Jr. toddler show on air :)

While these concepts and skills are familiar to our babies...and while me may think "they've got it"...we need to make sure we "dig deep" and ensure that our kids not only have a strong sense of understanding, but that they are able to proficiently use geomtetrical language and easily & efficiently apply the learned skills.  

Today I just wanted to share with you a few activities I loved using in my classroom.  Activities that are hands-on and engaging...activities that encourage our kids to explore, learn, reinforce, and use geometrical language.  Activities, in my opinion, that are just plain fun!  

First up, let's talk about one of the core concepts when teaching these skills and concepts.  Composing Shapes.  

This is a great example of an interactive anchor chart from The Controlled Chaos Classroom that  I would use with my students to introduce this concept.

I love interactive anchor charts.  I love giving kids the opportunity to not only learn, but teach their peers at the same time.  

These are a great set of FREE composing shapes activity cards from my friend, Susan, over at Thank God, It's First Grade.  These cards are perfect for centers or fast finisher activities and give kids repeated opportunities to practice composing shapes.  And we all know that when our kids can manipulate tangible objects learning becomes more concrete and connections are made that help them to remember and apply what they learn.

Speaking of tangible objects, I love to incorporate any type of tactile material into my lessons and independent activities so that my kids have opportunities to explore hands-on learning with a variety of materials....just something to make learning more concrete.

These are my go-to hands-on materials for learning.  Many of them are perfect for composing both 2D and 3D shapes.  And if you haven't figured out a way these materials can be used in your instruction, just ask your kids....they always have ideas!  

While we're on the subject of both 2D and 3D shapes, let's talk about something celebratory.  At the end of each unit, I like to celebrate with food.  If you know me at all, this shouldn't surprise you one bit.  Food is my love language <3.  I know many schools don't allow food as part of the learning process, but many do.  So for those of you who CAN incorporate food into your plans, consider hosting a SHAPE BUFFET after learning about either/both 2D &/or 3D shapes.  This is basically a smorgasbord of various 2D & 3D shaped food items.  
Circle:  Ritz Crackers, Pepperoni, Round Cookies
Square:  Wheat Thins, Cheez Its, Waffle Pretzels
Triangle:  Doritos, Pita Crackers, Triscuit Thin Crisps
Rectangle: Club Crackers, Chessmen Cookies, Graham Crackers
Oval:  Flip Sides Pretzel Crackers, Pepperidge Farm Milano Cookies
Hexagon:  Gold-n-Cheese Crackers, Oyster Crackers

Cylinder: Pirouettes, Slim Jims, Combos, marshmallows
Sphere:  Kix cereal, Cocoa Puffs cereal, grapes, Whoppers
Cone:  sugar cones, Bugles
Cube:  cheese cubes, croutons, caramels
Rectangular prism:  Hershey's kiss, Candy corn
Rectangular Prism:  Twix, sugar wafer cookies

A Shape Buffet can be implemented as a simple, "Fill your plate with 1 food item of each shape" OR you can fill your celebration with a few educational activities, too.  

Fill a giant bowl full of both 2D & 3D shaped food objects.  Prompt students to scoop a cup of food objects and sort into 2D & 3D shape categories and graph.

Fill a giant bowl full of either 2D or 3D shaped food items. Prompt students to scoop a cup of food items and sort into differnt shape categories (example:  scoop a cup of 2D shape food items and sort into circle, square, triangle, etc.)  Graph results.

Scoop a cup full of food items and count the total amount scooped.  Find a friend who scooped more/less/same.

Scoop a cup full of both 2D & 3D shaped food items.  Sort into 2D & 3D groups.  Count the total amount of 2D shape food items and record the number.  Count the total amount of 3D shaped food items and record the number.  Add the two numbers together and write the total sum.  Count the total amount of food items scooped to double check the answer.

This collection of 2D & 3D shape activities are perfect for everything from whole group to partner work.  The activities are engaging and hands-on and are kid & teacher tested and approved :)  I think it's extremely important to make learning hands-on.  Like I said earlier, hands-on learning creates a strong foundation in conceptual understanding and helps our kids to form lasting connections that allow them to easily remember & apply the skills they learn.  PLUS, what kids don't like to have fun while they're learning?!  Anytime you can present content in the form of a game, everybody wins :)

And when I'm in the need for a paper/pencil assessment...which isn't the case most of the time, but sometimes paper documentation and samples are needed...I pull out these 2D & 3D shape flip strips.  My kids LOVE these!!  

Now let's finish this out with a few freebies for you, shall we?! These are some of my favorite activities to include in my centers, teacher table, and fast finisher tubs.  

ROLL & ADD - for this activity, assemble the 2D die template provided & place the Roll & Add printable in a dry erase sleeve.  Roll the die once.  Draw the shape on which you land in the first bubble provided.  Count the vertices on the shape and record the number on the line beneath it.  Roll the die again.  Draw the shape on which you land in the next bubble.  Count the vertices on the shape and record the numberon the line beneath it.  Add the vertices of both shapes together for a combined sum.  Write the sum in the space provided and draw a shape with a matching number of vertices in the bubble.  Record the shape in the box below.  

ROLL & COLLECT:  For this activity, assemble the pattern block die template.  Prompt students to roll the die 10-20 times (teacherdiscretion.  Students can even spin a spinner or pull a random number card from a container to determine the number of times to roll the die.) 
Students will roll the die, identify the shape on which they land, and then collect that matching shape.  Students will continue to roll and collect until they have rolled the die the determined amount of times.  Once all shapes are collected, students will assemble into a creation, count, and record in the space provided on the printable.

GUESS THE SHAPE:  This activity is perfect for whole or small group.  You can use a paper bag or something fancier if you prefer.  Adhere the “Guess the Shape” label onto the frontof the bag (optional) and print out the “guess the shape” activity prompt sheet.  Place a tactile “mystery” shape in the bag.  This will be your discretion.  Use pattern blocks or geosolids for this activity.  In a whole/small group setting, prompt a student to reach into the bag without looking and then read the prompts aloud to encourage students to describe the shape without telling what the shape actually is.  The rest of the students in the group will listen to the descriptors and determine which shape is hiding in the bag.  This is a great activity to discuss attributes as well as giving kids the opportunity to use geometric language and would be perfect to introduce shapes or review them. (ADDITIONAL IDEA:  Keep a set of shape picture cards on hand and prompt kids to determine which shapes DON’T fit the descriptions and remove until only one is remaining. ) 


SPIN & STACK:  For this hands-on 3D shape activity, you will need a spinner overlay (or pencil & paper clip to create
 a spinner) and a set of geosolids. 
OPTION 1:  Students will roll 1 or 2 dice to determine the number of times they will spin the spinner.  Students will spin and collect the shapes on which they land until they are out of spins.  Then students will determine how to stack the geosolids collected without it falling over. 
OPTION 2:  Students will spin the spinner, collect the geosolid on which they land, and create a stack.  Students will continue to spin, collect, and stack until their “tower” falls over.  The player whose tower is the last one standing, wins the game.  (With this option, students will quickly determine that cones, and pyramids/rectangular prisms can only be stacked on its base and spheres can’t stack at all :) )

I hope these activities are helpful for you and hope your kids enjoy!!!



  1. I really love the #D Shape Buffet! Making snacking fun! I've been trying to do food riddles with my kids and they are starting to really love dinner time! If its okay with you I'll share some here: Food Riddles