Math at Home Math Access for Teachers
and Home Child Care Providers

CME Group Community Foundation



Making Shapes

Children will construct and identify various 2-dimensional shapes using color-coded craft sticks.


Content Area Standard Target
  • Geometry
  • Analyze characteristics and properties of two- and three– dimensional geometric shapes and develop mathematical arguments about geometric relationships
  • Specify locations and describe spatial relationships using coordinate geometry and other representational systems
  • Use visualization, spatial reasoning, and geometric modeling to solve problems
  • Recognize, name, build, draw, compare, and sort two- and three- dimensional shapes
  • Describe attributes and parts of two- and three-dimensional shapes
  • Describe, name, and interpret relative positions in space and apply ideas about direction and space
  • Create mental images of geometric shapes using spatial memory and spatial visualization
  • Recognize and represent shapes from different perspectives
  • Recognize geometric shapes and structures in the environment and specify their location
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Obtain materials Obtain the Materials
  • Colored, foam craft sticks. (found at a craft store) If you can’t find these, you can cut sheets of craft foam into strips or you can buy colored wooden craft sticks.  Separate the craft sticks by color and label the correct number of sticks with a shape’s name, number of sides, and a small drawing of the shape.  For example, for triangle, use 3 yellow craft sticks, write the number 3 on each of them as well as the word triangle and a picture of a triangle.  Make enough groupings for triangle, square, rectangle (2 of the 4 sticks need to be cut shorter and the same size), pentagon, hexagon, and octagon.
  • Once the sticks are ready, place them in a bin full of water.  Wet foam sticks to windows, whiteboards, cookie sheets, or easels.  If you are using wooden craft sticks, put all the sticks into a basket or bin and provide a surface where the children can construct their shapes.

Note: Small parts create a choking hazard for children. Make sure that all materials you choose to use for an activity or lesson with children meet safety requirements. Small parts are not appropriate for children who are 5 years of age or younger.

Introduce the activity Introduce the Activity
  1. Explain to the children that today they are going to make shapes. They will use craft sticks/popsicle sticks to make squares, triangles, rectangles, hexagons, pentagons, and octagons. 
  2. Describe and explain hexagons, pentagons, and octagons to the children.  Point out how many sides each of the shapes have.
  3. Ask the children to point out various objects around the room that are in the shape of squares, triangles, rectangles, hexagons, pentagons, and octagons. 
Engage the children Engage the Children
  1. The children will take turns plucking one stick from the water and reading the number on it. The number tells the child how many more sticks he or she needs to find of that color and to construct his or her shape. The children hunt for their sticks and stick them to their surface.  (Wet foam sticks to things like a removable sticker)
  2. Once the children have all the sticks needed to make their shape, they will be able to look at the picture of the shape on their sticks and identify which shape they are going to build. They may need help reading the name of the shape written on the stick. Each child will then build their shape and count the number of sides.
  3. Repeat the activity for all the shapes. When finished building all the shapes, the children can complete the activity on their own.
  4. You can also play a little game where you call out a shape and the children rush to be the first to point at the shape.

Additional Extensions

  • Using either the sticks to trace or freehand to draw, the children can trace their shapes onto a piece of paper and label each shape's attributes.  For example, if a child were constructing a triangle, they would draw a picture of a triangle and then write the word triangle below the shapes.  They would also write that the triangle has 3 sides.  The children can make a “Shapes” book of all the shapes they build.
Encourage vocabulary Encourage Vocabulary
  • Polygon – A plane shape having 3 or more straight sides
  • Quadrilateral – A polygon with 4 sides
  • Square – A quadrilateral with 4 equal sides and four right angles
  • Triangle – A polygon with three angles and three sides
  • Rectangle – A quadrilateral with 2 pairs of opposite equal parallel sides
  • Hexagon – A polygon with 6 sides
  • Pentagon – A polygon with 5 sides
  • Octagon – A polygon with 8 sides

Connect examples of common objects with their shapes.

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

Make adaptations Make Adaptations

Supporting Children at Different Levels

Toddlers   Pre-K

Toddlers may:

  • Not easily identify shapes.
  • Not be able to build the shapes.
  • Not recognize the names of each shape.
  • Not be able to draw shapes
Vertical line

Pre-K Children may:

  • Be able to identify a variety of shapes.
  • Be able to draw and talk about the attributes of several different shapes.
  • Not be able to draw complicated shapes

Home child care providers may:

  • Help the child pick all the same color sticks and then provide support when the child is reading their stick. 
  • Using the clues on the stick, (the number of sticks needed, the picture of the shape and the word of the shape) help the children with what shape they are building and how many more sticks they need to collect to build that shape.
  • Once the shape is built, together with the toddler, count the number of sides the shape has.


Home child care providers may:

  • Provide paper and crayons so that the children can transfer their constructed shapes onto the paper and draw a picture using those shapes.
  • Provide a blank book (several sheets of blank paper stapled together) so the children can record their shapes and the shape’s attributes,  Along with a drawing of the shape, the name of the shape, and the number of sides the shape has, the children can also draw a picture of an object in that shape. e.g. For octagon – a picture of the shape, the word “octagon”, 8 sides, and a picture of a stop sign.


Books Books
  • Shape by Shape by Suse MacDonald (New York: Little Simon, 2009)
  • Mouse Shapes by Ellen Stoll Walsh (New York: HMH Books for Young Readers, 2007)
  • Shapes, Shapes, Shapes by Tana Hoban (New York: Greenwillow Books, 1996)
Music and movement Music and Movement
Outdoor connections Outdoor Connections
  • This would be a really fun activity with a plastic wading pool and swimming noodles on a hot summer day.  Using different colored noodles, (use one noodle per shape and you can cut it up into the number of sides you need for that shape) put them all in the wading pool and have the children pluck them out and construct bigger shapes on the lawn.  Label each length of noodle with a permanent marker the same way that you labeled the foam sticks.  With the bigger sticks, have the children work together on building one shape.  For example, “Let’s all work together to build a hexagon.”

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