How to Teach Shapes to 2-Year-Olds

by Kathryn Hatter
Two-year-olds often enjoy manipulating shape toys.

Two-year-olds often enjoy manipulating shape toys.

The process of learning shapes takes time–kids don’t just “get” that a triangle has three sides and three points from the beginning. With a two-year-old, the first stage in the task of learning shapes is beginning to recognize similar or matching shapes, according to HighReach Learning. When you want to help your two-year-old learn basic shapes, spend time with manipulative toys that let her see and touch various shapes.

Items you will need

  • Shape sorter
  • Balls of various sizes, such as golf ball, ping pong ball, baseball and beach ball
  • Blocks of various sizes, such as blocks, cubes and small boxes
  • Large bowl
  • Large box
  • Cookie cutters in geometric shapes
Step 1

Sit with your little one with the manipulative toys on the floor. Hold up one shape from the shape sorter–the circle, perhaps–and name it for your child.

Step 2

Ask your child to find another circle and encourage her to look through the other shapes available to find one that matches. If she has trouble finding a matching shape, remove some of the choices so it’s easier to find a match. Keep removing the options until she finds a matching shape.

Step 3

Provide lots of positive feedback after she finds the match and show her again how both shapes match. Say the names again, too.

Step 4

Choose another shape–this time a square, maybe–and repeat the same process. Keep going in the same way for as long as your two-year-old enjoys the game and performs well. When she tires and begins to have trouble, wrap it up for the day. Provide daily opportunities for your two-year-old to match shapes using the shape sorter.

Step 1

Spread out the balls, blocks, large box and large bowl for a categorizing activity with your toddler.

Step 2

Ask your toddler to find all the round shapes and place them into the bowl. Give him time and plenty of encouragement while he hunts for all the round shapes. Next, ask him to find all the square shapes and place them into the box. Give help if your little guy gets stuck, but you might be amazed how a little one can successfully categorize shapes of different sizes.

Step 3

Count each round shape in the big bowl and then each square shape in the big box together for even more categorizing and counting fun. The more your little guy sees these lessons reinforced in a fun and enjoyable way, the faster he'll learn.

Step 1

Use a square or circle cookie cutter to cut toast into shapes before serving breakfast to your toddler. Make pancakes and cut them into geometric shapes and ask him to identify each one.

Step 2

Serve triangle- or circle-shaped sandwiches to a toddler for lunch. Cut pizza into triangle wedges for lunch. Serve triangle-shaped or square-shaped crackers for a snack.

Step 3

Roll out cookie dough and make shaped cookies with your toddler. As you cut circles, squares, triangles and rectangles, identify each shape. After baking the cookies and while the cookies are cooling, point to the different shapes and name them with your toddler. Let your toddler choose a cookie by asking her to point to a circle cookie.


  • As your child progresses and nears age 3, start encouraging him to find shapes that you identify. For example, place various shapes in front of him and ask him to find a circle, a square or a triangle. Identifying shapes is the next skill little ones learn in the process of shape recognition, according to HighReach Learning. The final skill in this skill set is the ability to name shapes. Match shapes and then identify them on a daily basis to progress to this last skill.


About the Author

Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator and regular contributor to "Natural News." She is an accomplished gardener, seamstress, quilter, crocheter, painter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator and she enjoys technical and computer gadgets. Hatter's Internet publications specialize in natural health and she plans to continue her formal education in the health field, focusing on nursing.

Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Lifesize/Getty Images