Before children begin studying geometry the way we understand it, they explore the world of “topology.” Topology is the study of space and shapes; their properties and their relationships. They consider their own place in space, where they are, and how far they are from their others. They think about the relationships between objects and the properties within objects.
When I ask new teachers why it is important to provide clay, play-doh, or silly putty in their program, they will often say that children need plenty of tactile experiences throughout the day. I don’t disagree. However, the manipulation of these materials is another way that children study topography. Exploring the physical properties of clay, allows the children to take a ball and squish it into a snake. The amount doesn’t change but the shape does. Rubber bands and geoboards provide other types of opportunities for children to explore shape by stretching and manipulating the rubber bands to create all sorts of shapes.
Encourage vocabulary associated with topology by posing questions about where things are located or questions about direction. Play games that ask children to move further away and closer toward. Use systems that provide boundaries for children, like tape on the floor, or the edge of the rug.
Allow large block play everyday. No excuses.
Topology is a much more engaging and realistic way to engage young children in early geometry. It is far more interesting than asking them to draw shapes.