Tot School: Let’s learn about 3-D Shapes (free printable flash cards included)

Now that my little one has started to master traditional, two-dimensional shapes such as circles, rectangles, squares, and triangles, I decided to give her a new challenge- 3-D Shapes. We started small with sphere, cylinder, and cube shapes, and she shocked me by how much she really enjoyed our tot school lesson and game.

Introducing 3-D Shapes

Before introducing any new shapes, I first introduced the idea of two-dimensional versus 3-dimensional shapes. We talked about shapes she already knew (oval, square…) with some flash cards and flat foam shapes. Next, I gave her some blocks in the 3-D shapes I was introducing along with these 3-D shape flash cards I made.

3 D shape flash cards free printable
Click here to print my 3-D Shape Flash Cards for free!

I gave her each small block or ball to hold while I described the 3-D shapes to her. I also asked her questions to get her thinking about these new shapes such as what’s the difference between a circle and sphere? Of the three (sphere, cylinder, and cube), which rolls and which can stand up? I let her play, stack, and roll the blocks while gently reiterating the shape names.

Sorting 3-D Shapes

Initially, I thought that this would be enough for the first day, but my little one was still eager to play more with these new shapes, so I brought out the remaining flash cards and we worked to sort them accordingly. After sorting through them twice, she started to really get the hang of it, tho she did have trouble remembering the words cylinder and sphere.

Here’s a look at the 3-D flash cards we used for our sorting activity:

free printable cube 3 d shape flash cards
free printable cylinder 3 d shape flash cards
free printable sphere 3 d shape flash cards

Sorting 3-D Objects

After we sorted through the flash cards a few times, she was STILL showing interest, so I brought out the next phase of our lesson- a cloth bag that included 3 objects of each shape. I found some different size dice and chapstick in the shape of a cube. For a cylinder, we used a cup, wine cork, and candle. I added a golf ball, foam ball, and crochet ball for spheres.

I had her reach in the bag and bring out each item one at a time, and sort them based on which shape they fit. She really loved that each item was a “surprise” as well as feeling the different textures, weights, and sizes.

After this activity, my toddler really was done with this lesson for the day. I was shocked that we spent about 20-30 minutes on this lesson, as she usually only sits about 10 minutes for these introductory lessons that don’t have a game or sensory play or other craftivity.

She surprised me even more when she went back to her 3-D shape flash cards the next day and asked that we play with them again, so we did all of the above again. This time, we got through our lesson much quicker, so I adapted our sorting activity into a game.

3-D Shape Identification Game

By now, my little one was familiar with the shapes as well as the objects in the bag. For this game, I asked her to close her eyes, reach in the bag, and identify an object’s shape based on the feel of the object. Again, she loved the element of surprise!

Moreover, she really got into trying to figure out whether the item was a cube, cylinder, or sphere based on how it felt. She enjoyed the game so much that she even made Dad play it with her and “guess” the shapes along with her that evening.

Overall, I was really impressed by how much my toddler liked these learning activities. She went back to her bag of shapes throughout the week to sort or play with them, and was super proud of her new shape identification skills.


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