The following is a post from Angie.
In my capacity as founder/editor at The Homeschool Classroom, I find that we frequently get asked on our Facebook page about how to start formal schooling with very young children. While I am not personally a proponent of formal schooling at a very young age, I think that lots of exploring, music, games, and reading are wonderful ways for young children to learn. Some basic skills, however, that are also great fun to work on are colors, shapes, letters, and numbers.
The colors and shapes activities that I’m sharing today are hands on activities that will make learning fun and interactive. Some of them can get messy with very young children, so plan to be with them.
When I was working as an in-home developmental therapist for several years, I often suggested to parents, who wanted learning activities for these concepts, that they just incorporate colors or shapes in their everyday conversation. Instead of saying to your child, “Can you get the towel for me?” You can easily say, “Can you get the blue towel for me?” (You can do this even if the only choice is a blue towel. It’s not about choosing, it’s about giving that color a name. Of course, as they get a little older, distinguishing between colors becomes another thing to work on.)
Art activities are boundless when it comes to the ability to work on naming shapes and colors, from coloring, to finger painting, to sidewalk chalk, and so much more. Art, by its very nature, is often about colors and shapes.
For younger children, talk about colors and shapes during art projects. Allow them time to just work, but also take time to ask them about the colors or shapes they are using. For older children, you can move on to harder, more complex shapes as well as concepts like color mixing.
Making Color Mixed Crayons:
It’s fun to talk about the colors while using old crayons to make new crayons that are a mixed color. It’s also a fun opportunity to make a variety of shapes. (Directions for making mixed color crayons from old crayons.)
While these are also art activities, these are a fun thing for slightly older children (preschool and kindergarten).
A Shape Caterpillar:
I worked on this with my preschool-aged co-op class once, and they had a ball. (Kids love their glue sticks!) We used foam shapes in a variety of colors and worked on everyone recognizing the shapes and colors that they used on their papers.
This is one that I did with my children of a variety of ages. While I wasn’t worried about the older ones naming shapes, my youngest and I talked about the shapes and colors on the page. In this particular activity, we worked on making buildings by cutting various shapes out of construction paper and putting them together to make the finished product. This is also a great activity for working on scissor skills.
While some people may not think to do this with boys, I have found in my co-op classes (and at home) that young boys liked doing these activities just as much as the young girls. If you are working with small children, of course, they will need constant supervision as some small pieces could be a choking hazard.
Some examples of jewelry making projects that we’ve done include:
Pop Beads (as shown in first picture):
These are good not only for colors but also for fine motor skills. Some Pop Bead sets come with various shapes as well as the traditional rounded shape.
Plastic Pony Beads:
Pony beads are also available in various shapes and colors. Whenever I use them with younger kids (or even older ones), I like to tape the end of a string to the table so they don’t get frustrated by the beads falling off the other end. Keep in mind that sometimes beads of this size are discouraging to young children.
Stringing Colored Pasta:
This was one of my favorite activities that I ever did with my preschool co-op class. We made pasta necklaces for their mothers for Mother’s Day. Pasta comes in many shapes, and you can dye them in a large variety of colors. Leftover pasta can be used for other art projects or sensory bins as well. (Here are step-by-step directions for dying pasta for kids crafts.)
As children get older, sorting is a great way to learn about colors and shapes (and many other things too!). Being able to distinguish a color or shape from others is a higher level skill than naming a shape or color. A favorite activity of ours was sorting fun size packages of M&M candies. All of the children made predictions about what they thought they would have the most of and the least of color-wise. For my youngest, she just worked on sorting after that, while my oldest kids worked on ratios and other math concepts. (Everyone ate their materials afterward!)
There are also many wonderful educational toys to work on shape and color sorting. Some of my favorites from my developmental therapy days include:
Melissa and Doug Pattern Blocks and Boards (I didn’t use this in therapy, since I saw very young children, but it is a great learning toy)
Worksheets and Activity Books
For older children (preschool and kindergarten), it can be a nice reinforcement to do an occasional worksheet or activity book to solidify colors and shapes. I really enjoyed this colors worksheet from Mama’s Learning Corner, as it worked on matching up color names (and then working on the spelling of those) with the color. Lauren also has worksheets on sorting shapes.
The ways to work on colors and shapes for all ages are too numerous to share in one whole blog, let alone one blog post. I would love to hear some of the activities that you’ve done with your children while working on various aspects of learning about colors and shapes.