Ages & Stages: 0-5: Teaching Shapes and Colors During the Holidays

Children learn by touching, exploring and talking about new and interesting things. Enhance your child’s learning by reinforcing basic skills early at home. Shapes are everywhere. Take advantage of every teachable moment by talking about and pointing out shapes when you see them.

There are numerous examples in your daily routine. Talk with your children and say things like, “I see you are reading a holiday book that is a square or rectangle. You like eating that triangle sandwich, don’t you?” You will be teaching your child valuable language skills as well as shape differences.

The outside world is also full of shapes. Look at the many shapes on your house and neighbors’ houses. Are the windows square or rectangular? How about the doors? Do you see a circular wreath on the door? Are there rectangular bricks or circular stones? Show your child the round fruits at the grocery store and the circular tires on cars.

During the holidays, both indoors and outside, your child will see many shapes in decorations, foods and cultural objects used to observe the season. Take advantage of the many interesting activities that are plentiful during this time, accentuating the facts of using colors and shapes. Here are a few to try:

Paper Chain Patterns
Use the colors of Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. Make paper chains and then begin a pattern. To make chains, cut one-inch wide strips of construction paper. Make the loops as long as you wish. Glue one strip into a circle. Thread another strip through the circle, overlap ends and then glue again. Give instructions designating a certain pattern to follow, such as two red loops followed by one green loop, then two black loops (Kwanzaa). Complete the chain with this same pattern. Consider easier or more difficult patterns according to your child’s age and skill level.

Holiday Stars
Cut two equilateral triangles from construction paper. Glue the triangles together (points in opposite direction) forming a star. Discuss that the sides of the triangle are the same size.
Another idea is to use craft sticks to form another star. Glue three sticks together at each end to form a triangle. Do the same with another three sticks. Now, glue one triangle on top of the other in opposite directions. After it is dried, paint the star in your own holiday colors. Enhance it with decorative trims like glitter, sequins, faux jewels and/or buttons.

Gift Wrap Collage
This activity incorporates colors as well as shapes. Cut holiday gift wrap into all kinds of geometric shapes. Cut rectangle strips from ribbons and provide adhesive color circles (found in office supply stores). Place all these materials in front of the children and let them creatively glue these together on a sheet of construction paper to create a holiday collage.

Rectangle Tree
Cut rectangles in various lengths from green construction paper. Arrange these lengths from shortest to longest. This is a great time to discuss the concepts of short and long. As these strips are arranged, tape a length of yarn or ribbon to the back of each rectangle to make a mobile. Let the children decorate these trees with crayons, holiday stickers and glitter.

Cut out stars from construction paper about 8 to 10 inches in size. Tape these onto the floor forming a pattern (straight lines or geometric shapes). Indicate the starting star and path to follow. Hop from one star to another until the path is completed. You can vary the motions from hopping to skipping, galloping, crawling and twirling through the path.

3-D Tree
Cut paper towel tubes into one-inch rings. Glue the rings together to form a tree shape (three on the bottom, two above, ending with one). Paint and decorate as desired.

CD Ornaments
Save scratched and outdated CDs. Cut felt in different shapes and collect glitter, confetti or stickers. Glue felt shapes on the CD, and then add the trim. When the kids are finished decorating, put a string through the middle and use as an ornament, or stick a picture of the child in the middle and put a magnet on the back. Both make great gifts for family and friends!

Tania Cowling is an author, former early childhood teacher and mother living in South Florida.