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

CME Group Community Foundation



Shape of Things

Children will learn to identify the various attributes of 3-D shapes (cube, cone, sphere, cylinder, pyramid, prism) through games and Play-doh construction.

Content Area Standard Target
  • Geometry
  • Analyze characteristics and properties of two- and three- dimensional geometric shapes and
    develop mathematical arguments about geometric relationships
  • 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
  • Investigate and predict the results of putting together and taking apart two- and three- dimensional shapes
  • 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
Increase your knowledge
Print this lesson (PDF file)
Share with parents (Word DOC)
Comment on this lesson
Obtain materials Obtain the Materials
  • Play-doh
  • posterPoster to put up in the classroom and go over with the children.


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. Introduce all the shapes to the children.  Use the poster to help you introduce each of the shapes.
  2. Ask the children to describe the characteristics of each of the objects.  Write down what they say on the chart paper.  Point out the length, width and height of each of the objects.  Be sure to point out the characteristics of the 3-D shapes that make them different from 2-D shapes.
Engage the children Engage the Children
  1. Introduce the game of “Hot Shape”  (played like “Hot Potato”)  have the children gather in a circle and pass one of the shapes to each other while music plays. The player who is holding the "hot shape" when the music stops has to identify one characteristic of the shape they are holding. Play continues until all characteristics of all 6 shapes have been named. The game can also be played without music where there is a designated leader who shouts out "shape!" and the child holding the shape needs to name a characteristic.
  2. After playing the game, give the children some Play-Doh to construct the different 3-D shapes.

Additional Extensions

  • Have the children close their eyes while playing “Hot Shape” When the music stops, the children will use their sense of touch, to figure out the shape. If they are having difficulty, allow the other children in the circle to give them hints.
Encourage vocabulary Encourage Vocabulary
  • 3-dimensional – A shape having 3 dimensions (length, width and height)
  • Cone – A solid shape with a circular base and a curved surface that tapers to a point (e.g., "A cone is like a party hat.")
  • Sphere A ball.  A 3-dimensional solid that is perfectly round (e.g., "A sphere is like a bouncy ball.")
  • Prism A solid 3-dimensional shape with two identical bases (e.g., "A prism is a tall building.")
  • Cylinder A solid shape with one curved surface and two identical bases (e.g., "A can of pop is a cylinder.")
  • Cube A solid shape that has 6 square faces all equal in size, 8 vertices, and 12 equal edges (e.g., "A cube is like the dice you drop.")

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

Make adaptations Make Adaptations

Supporting Children at Different Levels

Toddlers   Pre-K

Toddlers may:

  • Not yet be ready to name the characteristics of the different 3-D shapes.
Vertical line

Pre-K Children may:

  • Readily identify the characteristics of the 3-D shapes.
  • Have a real aptitude for building with the Play-Doh and a solid sense of spatial reasoning.

Home child care providers may:

  • Just let the children build with the Geo-blocks.  Have them become familiar with the 3-D shapes by allowing them to build and engage in free play.


Home child care providers may:

  • Have the children close their eyes while playing “Hot Shape” When the music stops, the children will use their sense of touch, to figure out the shape. If they are having difficulty, allow the other children in the circle to give them hints.
  • Give the children a challenge or a problem to solve (like designing a car of the future) and watch them get creative! Group members can work together to create a sculpture or an imaginary animal.  They can give a small presentation on their construction.  Make sure that they use and combine the 3-D shapes discussed.


Books Books
  • The Shape of Things by Julie Lacome (New York: Candlewick, 1996)
  • 3-D Shapes (My Path to Math) by Marina Cohen (New York: Crabtree Publishing Company, 2010)
Music and movement Music and Movement
Outdoor connections Outdoor Connections
  • Many additional ideas to extend the study of 3-D shapes

  • Take a trip to a grocery store and look for 3-D shapes on the shelves.  Packaging for food comes in many different shapes.  You are likely to see many cylinders and prisms but be on the look out for spheres and cones. 

Explore links Web Resources



Empty speech bubbleComment on this lesson




To report a problem with the site, please email us.

© 2011. M.A.T.H.