Are you searching for educational activities for your toddler or preschooler, but you don’t want to break the bank? I’ve found the perfect learning activity for you!
Lately, I’ve been looking for items to make for my preschooler that we can save and reuse again and again. I’ve tried worksheets, and although completing worksheets can be a great tool for preschool practice, they’re a one-use item.
I also don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on fancy preschool activities when I can make something for a fraction of the price. I’m all about stretching my dollar and creating DIY activities for my kids when possible.
This shape-matching activity for toddlers has been the perfect fit for my preschooler. We keep coming back to it again and again. Also, if you invest in a few basic supplies, this free shape printable DIY project is basically free.
Supplies You Need for the Free Matching Shapes Printable
Making this shape matching activity is super easy to do! Here are the supplies you’ll need in order to complete this project.
You could totally use this printable without laminating. However, if your child is anything like mine, laminating is probably the best way to go. Laminating provides an extra sturdiness that will give this activity longevity.
If you don’t already own a laminator, hear me out. I was originally hesitant to purchase a laminator because I assumed that they were really expensive, but boy, was I wrong!
My sister showed me all the activities she was laminating for her toddler (check out our free dinosaur printable!), and I finally decided to look up how expensive a laminator really was. I did a quick search, and I found this laminator on Amazon for only $21!
Some of the reviews complain about it not having a tray, but I haven’t found this to be an issue. It has worked really well for me! You just plug it in, flip the switch on the back, and wait for it to heat up. The ready button will turn blue once it is ready to use.
Investing in a laminator was a great choice for me and my family! I have been able to create countless reusable activities for my preschooler and elementary aged child.
Working mom perspective: In my opinion, a laminator is a must-have for homeschooling moms. But I’m continually surprised at how often I use the laminator as a working mom. I love creating new educational activities for my little ones, and I instruct our nanny to work on them during the day. It’s a great feeling! So working moms – don’t sleep on the laminator!
If you decide to laminate, don’t forget your laminating sheets. I recommend the Scotch laminating sheets. When I purchased them, they were only $13.49, which comes out to roughly 14 cents a sheet. These have sealed really well for me.
Working mom perspective: I’ve tried the Amazon brand, and all I can say is DON’T DO IT! You’ll save a few bucks, but the cheaper sheets are paper thin, have a yellow tint, and curl up when you’re done laminating. I returned them and went back to the Scotch sheets. They’re thicker, clear, and stay flat.
I have also heard of sheets you can purchase which are sticky and create a type of lamination without a laminator, but I’ve never tried them myself. These could be another option for you if you don’t have a laminator.
For me, regular printer paper works just fine. My sister has used 80lb paper, and she really likes the extra durability thicker paper provides. Use whatever works for you!
Working mom perspective: The 80lb paper is definitely a splurge, so I don’t use it for every laminating project. It costs about 17 cents per page while regular paper costs a penny or two. For this particular project, I do actually recommend going with thicker paper if you can – we use the shape matching game ALL the time, and my original copy with regular paper has started to wear. Our kids crease the shapes and I’ll need to recreate the project soon.
We will use velcro dots to attach the matching shapes to the main page. We recommend these velcro dots. They’re really inexpensive, and they’ll last forever.
Purchasing a roll of velcro dots was a great investment for me. I have used velcro dots for other matching games like these but also other projects as well like our classroom calendar in our homeschool room.
Any scissors will do really. Just make sure they’re sharp enough to cut cleanly through your laminated sheets.
Working mom perspective: If you’re in the market for amazing scissors, I recommend the J.A. Henckels kitchen shears. They’re under $20 and they are incredibly sharp. I often gift them because everyone needs a great pair of kitchen shears! We have two – one for the kitchen and one for crafting.
How will this activity benefit my child?
We all can agree that learning shapes is a fundamental skill to master before elementary school. But did you know that shape games are believed to aid in developing spatial skills and prepare children for future STEM activities?
Building Spatial Skills
According to research supported by the Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center, learning about shapes through sorting, naming, and describing allows children to develop broad spatial thinking.¹
Spatial ability is being able to envision and manipulate objects in your mind, having a firm grasp on the relationship between both real and imagined objects and shapes. Gymnasts, engineers, and radiologists all use spatial skills in their work.
In fact, you and I use spatial skills all the time in our daily lives from commuting to work to tying our shoes. Have you ever put together a piece of IKEA furniture? You guessed it; your spatial skills were hard at work (Mine were working over time, those things are hard to put together!!).
Connections to STEM
As I’m working with my preschooler, I also want to choose activities that will give them a headstart for Kindergarten and beyond.
Not only do the Common Core Standards reference mastering shape recognition in Kindergarten², but exposing children to geometric shapes at a young age can better prepare them for future work in STEM: science, technology, engineering, and math.
Working on these simple activities with your children has a greater impact than you might realize. An article supported by the National Science Foundation comments, “Across the research literature, family engagement in the math and literacy education of young children (3–8 years) has a consistently positive effect on children’s learning in those areas, and this relation is strongest when that engagement takes place outside of school – for example, when playing with shapes, puzzles, or blocks together at home.”³
I know for me, I can get agitated when my child asks to do that puzzle again for the thousandth time, but participating in these pastimes with your children is setting them up for much success in the future.
Simple games, like this Shape Matching Activity, really do make a positive difference in educating our children.
Which shapes are included?
It turns out the majority of preschool shape activities focus on circles, triangles, squares, and stars.¹ This could explain why children ages 3-6 identify circles with 96% accuracy but rectangles with only 54% accuracy.⁴
Our Shape Matching Activity includes:
- Rhombus (diamond)
I have included a few tougher shapes, like pentagon and rhombus, on purpose. Right now, my second grader is really struggling with telling the difference between pentagons and hexagons. I decided to begin exposing my 3-year-old to some “trickier” shapes now in order to better prepare her for her future math endeavors.
Although a heart isn’t a traditional geometric figure, we’ve included it just for fun. My daughter loves hearts, and anything that makes learning fun is a plus in my book!
Once your child has mastered naming the shapes, consider having your child describe the shapes.
- How many sides does the shape have?
- Is the shape made of straight or curved lines?
- How are the shapes similar and different?
You can group the shapes based on straight or curved edges. Your preschooler won’t realize it, but this type of activity is preparing them for identifying polygons and non-polygons later in elementary school.
Take it a step further and discuss more and less. In the case of polygons vs. non-polygons, there are only two shapes that are non-polygons, the heart and the circle.
Diving in a bit deeper past basic shape recognition will help your child begin to comprehend the properties that define each shape.
How do I assemble the Shape Matching Activity?
I created two versions of this shape matching printable. One is full sized. This size allows the shapes to be a bit bigger which is helpful for younger children. I’ve also included a half-size sheet that can be cut down to fit into a preschool busy bag.
Print out pages 1 and 2.
As you can see, my printer’s yellow ink started to run out when I printed these. This is a common mom dilemma if I’ve ever heard of one!! My fix: the classic crayola marker.
Laminate both pages and cut out the shapes from the second page.
Attach one set of velcro dots to your main page. Choose either all hook or all loop velcro pieces.
Attach the opposite set of velcro dots directly on the first set. (I learned this trick from my sister! Isn’t she a genius?!) This way you can align your cut out pieces perfectly over the main page.
This is also a great activity to include in a preschool busy bag. I utilize preschool busy bags during my homeschool day to give my 3 year old special activities to work on while I work with her older sister. I’ve also seen people pack busy bags for the car, to bring to restaurants, or even church.
I use binder pencil pouches for my preschool busy bags, so I’ve also made a half size that you can cut down to fit into a smaller bag.
Print and laminate the third page.
Cut out your main page section and the second set of shapes.
Attach your velcro dots to your main page, and attach the second set of velcro dots directly on top of the first set.
Press on your matching shapes, and voila! You’re ready to begin matching!
I hope you and your child enjoy using this shape matching activity as much as we do! Let me know how it goes in the comments!
Remember: what you’re doing with your children matters. Sometimes the daily grind of dirty diapers, cooking meals, and never-ending loads of laundry can feel monotonous and futile.
BUT, you, yes you mama, are making a difference. Doing these simple activities with your child really does make a positive impact. You’re doing great work!!
Looking for more matching printables for your toddler or preschooler? Check out our other freebies (more coming soon!).
- Resnick, I., Verdine, B. N., Golinkoff, R., & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (2016). Geometric toys in the attic? A corpus analysis of early exposure to geometric shapes. University of Delaware and Temple University. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2016.01.007
- “Kindergarten >> Geometry” Common Core State Standards Initiative. April 22, 2021. www.corestandards.org/Math/Content/K/G/
- McClure, E. R., Guernsey, L., Clements, D. H., Bales, S. N., Nichols, J., Kendall-Taylor, N., & Levine, M. H. (2017). STEM starts early: Grounding science, technology, engineering, and math education in early childhood. New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.
- Clements, D.H., Swaminathan, S., Zeitler Hannibal, M.A., & Sarama, J. (1999). Young children’s concepts of shape. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 30, 192- 212