Learning to recognize shapes and locations is necessary for teaching kindergartners math basics. Fortunately, our world is made up of every kind of shape. And we may not even realize it, but we’re constantly giving and getting directions (“Go up the hill.” “It’s just around the corner.” “You’ll find it under the third shelf.”). So it’s easy to practice learning about shapes and locations with your child throughout the day. The best part? You can make learning basic math into these three games:

Shape detective

Before you head out to the grocery store, make a list of shapes including triangle, circle, square, oval, rectangle, cylinder, cube, and pyramid. When you’re at the store, have your child point out the shapes she sees and put a check mark next to the names on the list. (Or simply choose a shape to spot and have your child find as many as she can.) She’ll probably score high on cylinders in the canned-food section, but how many triangles can she find? Extra points for a pyramid! Encourage her to look above her head — and to her left and right — to remind her of directions.

Colors and shapes abstract art

Help your child use her knowledge of colors and shapes to create an abstract masterpiece. First have her cut out shapes from magazines or draw and cut out different ones on construction paper. Challenge her to draw the shapes in different ways. For example, a long thin rectangle, a small circle, a big circle, or a large triangle.

Now have her arrange the shapes on a piece of paper. Have her try out different placements before settling on a design. Suggest putting one shape high and another low, touching one side of the paper, overlapping shapes, or putting one shape in the middle of another. Once she likes her design, have her glue the shapes to the paper. Ta-da! Talk with her about how abstract art uses colors and shapes to express a feeling or mood. It doesn’t have to look like anything we recognize.

Map it out

A great way to practice directions is to ask your child to draw a map of his route to school. First, talk with him about how he gets there, using directional words such as “First, the bus turns left onto Main Street, then it goes under the road and through the tunnel. When you’re inside the tunnel, it’s going to be dark!”

Once he has a basic idea of directions, ask him to draw the map. Then have him add landmarks such as City Hall (you can help with hints like “Isn’t there a big building on the left side of the street there?”).

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