Effective Practice Guides

Geometry and Spatial Sense: Do


Try the following practices with preschool-aged children. Find out how home visitors can put these practices to work with families.


  • Introduce shapes through shape-related materials, including blocks and games (e.g., shape lotto, shape bingo, and puzzles). Use correct names for two-dimensional shapes (e.g., circle, square, triangle, rectangle) and three-dimensional shapes (e.g., sphere, cube, prism). Point out the attributes and characteristics that make shapes either two- or three-dimensional.
  • Share books about shapes (e.g., The Shape of ThingsThe Village of Round and Square Houses). Point out shapes and discuss their attributes as you read.
  • Provide opportunities to explore shapes and their attributes that require children to reorient shapes by flipping, rotating, or sliding them and putting shapes together to make new shapes.
  • Sing songs and play games that direct children to move their bodies in space (e.g., “Simon says, 'Put your hands on top of your knees, jump up and down, hold the beanbag behind your back ...'”).
  • Read aloud stories that use position words (e.g., above, below, up, down). Following reading, provide opportunities for children to act out the story using position words.
  • With the children, build an obstacle course or outdoor maze. As children navigate the maze, use position words to describe their activities. Encourage children to use position words to describe how they get through the maze.

Home Visitors

Home visitors can support parents in identifying, adapting, and trying the practices listed above during home visits and group socializations. Here are more ideas.3

  • Talk with parents about ways they can use hands-on experiences to help their child learn about shapes (e.g., building with blocks or empty boxes, drawing and tracing shapes, creating shapes with home-made play dough, or doing a puzzle). Brainstorm ideas for materials they can find in their home and community to support shape exploration.
  • Encourage parents to refer to shapes in the environment when talking with children (e.g., “Look at your pancake. It’s a circle," or "We can use this rectangle pan to bake this cake.”).
  • Encourage parents to use spatial words in everyday interactions with their child (e.g., “I am right behind you,” “The book is on the chair,” or “Put your shoes under the bed.”).
  • Encourage parents to talk with their child about shapes and spatial concepts in the language(s) they know best.

1California Department of Education, California Preschool Curriculum Framework Volume 1 (Sacramento, CA: California Department of Education, 2010), 284–287, Geometry, Shapes, Positions in Space, http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1.pdf [PDF, 8.8MB].

2National Head Start Family Literacy Center (NHSFLC), High Five Mathematize: An Early Head Start and Head Start Math Resource Guide (Washington, DC: HHS, ACF, OHS, NHSFLC, 2010), 92–93, 97, https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/publication/high-five-mathematize.

3California Department of Education, California Preschool Curriculum Framework Volume 1 (Sacramento, CA: California Department of Education, 2010), 288–289, Geometry, http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1.pdf [PDF, 8.8MB].

Topic:School Readiness

Resource Type: Article

Last Updated: June 3, 2018