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

CME Group Community Foundation



Shape Hunt

Children will go on a Shape Hunt around the classroom to identify and recognize the various shapes in a book.

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
  • The book, The Secret Birthday Message by Eric Carle.
  • Shape Hunt sheets.  Sheets should have pictures of the shapes in the book (semi-circle, star, oval, triangle, circle, rectangles) and a place where they can draw that shape once they identify and locate it in the room.
  • Ensure that there are objects that match the shapes around the room.  If there aren’t, strategically place shapes cut out of construction paper around the room, e.g. a yellow star placed high enough for the children to plainly see it and high enough to represent a star in the sky.
  • Different colored cut outs of all the identified shapes in the book and large poster paper.


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 that today the children are going to go on a Shape Hunt.  It is similar to a Scavenger Hunt in that you find hidden objects but on this Shape Hunt, the children will locate different shapes around the room.
  2. Introduce the book.  Say: “Before we go on our Shape Hunt, we will first read The Secret Birthday Message by Eric Carle.  In this book, a boy decodes a secret message by following the shapes in the book.  We are going to find the same shapes on our Shape Hunt.”
  3. Look at the cover of the book.  Ask: “What shapes do you see?” (stars, squares, rectangles) Ask: “I wonder if we will find these shapes on our Shape Hunt?  What do you think?”  The children might start to look around the room and call out various shapes they see.  Refocus their attention to the book andask them to save their observations for their hunt.
  4. Read The Secret Birthday Message.  Read the secret message with the children.
  5. When book reads “When the (shape of a half circle, sun) comes up.”  The text does not read sun but the children will most likely chime in “sun.”  Instead of the word “sun”, there is a semi-circle shape.
    Ask: “What shape is the rising sun?” 
    Continue to ask the names of the various shapes included in the secret message.
  6. Continue to read the book.  As you come to an object that is one of the shapes, e.g. the oval shaped boulder, identify the shape by taping your cut-out oval shape onto your large poster paper and writing oval next to the shape.  Leave space next to the shape so that you can write down a few objects that are in the shape of an oval.  By the end of the book, you will have a poster that has identified the shapes in the book as well as objects that are that shape. For example:
  7. Cut-out of oval                    OVAL                                  egg, big rock, football, rug
Engage the children Engage the Children
  1. Explain the Shape Hunt.  Show the Shape Hunt sheets to the children and explain that they will now go on a hunt around the room to try and find the same shapes that they looked at in the book. They can find the actual shape, or an object that is in the shape they discussed while reading the book.  Once the children have located a shape on their sheet, they are to draw that same shape next to the original shape to indicate that they have found the shape.  If a child identifies a door as a rectangle, they can either draw a picture of the door or of a rectangle.  Shapes like stars can only be represented as stars and children might need assistance drawing this or other shapes.
  2. Explore the room.  Encourage the children to go off on their own in search of the shapes.  They might need some guidance as to where to look or how to look at the shape of an object.
  3. Share their findings.  Once all the children are finished with their Shape Hunt, have them gather in front of the shape poster and contribute their findings to the poster.  Add to the shape list by adding objects that are of the shape or in the case of the star, add places where you can find stars (the night sky, American Flag)

Additional Extensions

  • Create an Attributes Chart of all the shapes discussed in the Shape Hunt.  Various size rectangles vs. squares; circles vs. ovals vs. semi-circle; and the triangle and the star.  Compare and contrast the shapes and discuss with the children what an attribute is.
Encourage vocabulary Encourage Vocabulary
  • Triangle A pointy shape with three sides and three corners (e.g., "A slice of pizza is a triangle.")     
  • Square A shape with four straight sides that are the same length or size and four corners
  • Circle A round shape that has no straight edges or corners (e.g., "A wheel is a circle.")
  • Rectangle A shape with four sides and four right angles
  • Oval A stretched out circle that is shaped like an egg
  • Hexagon A shape with six straight sides and six corners (e.g., "A stop sign is a hexagon.")

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

Make adaptations Make Adaptations

Supporting Children at Different Levels

Toddlers   Pre-K

Toddlers may:

  • Not easily identify the shape of objects.
  • Need to learn about one shape at a time.
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.

Home child care providers may:

  • Modify the Shape Hunt.  Make the hunt more like an Egg Hunt.  “Hide” shapes in clear view and have the children collect one of each of the shapes discussed. 
  • Create a simplified Shape Poster to help the children identify their shapes.  You can add a color twist to the Shape Poster by providing shapes of different colors and once the children have found their shapes, they sort them by color on the poster.  So that all the blue shapes will be in one column, all the red shapes will be in another column, etc.
  • Provide assistance when children are looking for shapes.  Help the children to see the shapes of objects by asking them leading questions.  “Is that window in the shape of a triangle?” (no) “What shape is that window?” 
  • Start by introducing just one shape (circle) and only go on a hunt for circles.


Home child care providers may:

  • Provide a variety of shapes cut out of colored tissue paper or construction paper, allow the children to manipulate the shapes (flips, turns, rotations) and create a collage while creatively working with the various shapes.
  • Provide an opportunity for the children to compare & contrast shape by identifying the various attributes each shape possesses.


Books Books
  • The Secret Birthday Message by Eric Carle (New York: HarperCollins, 1986)
  • Shape by Shape by Suse Macdonald (New York: Little Simon, 2009)
Music and movement Music and Movement
Outdoor connections Outdoor Connections
  • The Shape Hunt is easily done outside.  Instead of looking for shaped objects indoors, look for shapes outside.  You might still need to strategically place some shapes around your outdoor space but there is potential for greater creativity and more possibilities.  A bird’s nest could be a semi-circle, the leaves or top part of a tree could be an oval, a fir tree could be a triangle and there are infinite possibilities with clouds. 


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