Top 11 manipulatives to teach shapes to early learners

Last Updated on October 10, 2023 by Editorial Team

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The shape is one of the aspects that intrigue kids a lot. Shapes are an important part of building math reasoning in a child. Judging shapes, sizes, heights, and distances finds its best use while playing games crossing the roads, and learning trigonometry at higher levels of study. As a teacher, you may find it difficult to familiarize kids with the concept of shapes. Teaching manipulatives help children come to terms with shapes in a fun way. 

Manipulatives help teach the concept of shapes to children in a participative manner. As a teacher or parent, allow them to play with blocks, solids, etc., engage them in craft activities, or simply arrange or sort, and eventually, help them overcome their hesitation about shapes and related concepts.

Which shape manipulatives should be on your checklist? This is quite a valid question given the plethora of options available around. So, to ease your searching woes, we bring you here the most creative manipulatives for teaching shapes to early learners.

Top 11 shape manipulatives for early learners

1. Melissa & Doug Pattern Blocks and Boards

Melissa & Doug Pattern Blocks and Boards

Unleash the creativity in children with Melissa and Doug Blocks and Boards! This shape manipulative can provide hands-on learning of shapes such as rectangles, hexagons, squares as well as trapeziums. Along with the comfort of the shapes, this manipulative works on improving spatial awareness and enhances eye and hand coordination. Color recognition ability development comes as a bonus with this teaching manipulative.

Start the activity by letting children sort the blocks by colors, and then involve them deeper by giving them patterns to fill with the blocks. You can also ask them to be creative in their choices of colors in making the patterns. Thus, children will enjoy learning shapes. With regular practice, they will be able to retain the concept better. Moving higher up on the learning ladder, you can time this activity and give it the challenge to make patterns in a given time. This manipulative is an amazing mind stimulant and offers a creative way of familiarizing children with shapes and patterns.

2. Coogam Wooden Blocks Puzzle Brain Teasers Toy Tangram

 Coogam Wooden Blocks Puzzle Brain Teasers Toy Tangram

Tease children’s brains with this Toy Tangram and gift them the intelligence of shapes, spatial awareness, and knowledge of shape types. This game challenges the mind and improves its ability to grasp the concept of shapes. Kids love the challenging part, though the first time will need a lot of boosting morale. Once achieved, the kids tend to come back to it and do it faster than before.

This shape manipulative helps in three ways; first, there is the retention of concept in mind, which means concept recall increases considerably. Second, the familiarity with signs is enhanced. Third, the children learn to recognize shapes as well as colors. Fitting this jigsaw puzzle into a box opens the world of awareness for children. Their minds get suitable challenges to overcome and feel great about their achievements. It is an engaging activity you can perform in the class as well as at home.

3. Educational Insights Shapes Beanbags

Educational Insights Shapes Beanbags

Shape bean bags are handy manipulatives for learning shapes with deeper involvement. The bean bags designed in the shapes of square, rectangle, hexagon, or circle with names put on them make identification much easier for early learners. Apart from recognizing the numbers, the children can be made to draw the shapes by outlining the bean bags. Start familiarizing parts by allowing them to toss or catch these. This activity has a deeper meaning as it allows students to improve their judgment of distance and the size or shape of the article.

Further, give a small shape talk where you can tell them about the shape and teach them to associate it with shape type. To attain a higher level of shape intelligence, the children can be asked to draw the outlines as suggested above.  Spelling learning, shape identification, and pencil-holding motor skills are some of the benefits children can derive from this shape manipulative.

4. Dough Tools Kit

Dough Tools Kit

Give children tools, literally speaking, to build and know the shapes. Children can use a rolling pin, dough cutter, and molds to create a variety of shapes. This shape manipulative can take the learning activity to higher levels of engagement and offers a playful way of grasping the figures that children normally look around.

Inculcate the initial as well as advanced motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and spatial intelligence, and shape association skills in the child and prepare him to be a confident learner. An interesting way to stimulate the brains of children towards spatial awareness, and build logical thinking

Give an easy introduction to shapes of animals, alphabets, and numbers with this interesting shape manipulative that makes an amazing pastime activity at home or in class.

5. VTech Sort and Discover Drum

VTech Sort and Discover Drum

Shape cognition is always there in a child. It is the association and application part that they learn from teachers using shape manipulatives. You will find children somewhat familiar with this manipulative as they have played with it since infancy. At home, with practice and a curiosity-laden approach, they try to fix the shapes in corresponding slots given in the drum. The manipulative offers an easy introduction to colors. Teachers tell them about canonical shapes like squares, triangles, and circles. They can further ask them to match these shapes with items in their surroundings.

Colorful blocks pre-fed music, and phrases in this manipulative do the job of attracting the child toward the activity. They can try to recollect the name of the shape each time they perform. With practice, they speed up the process of filling the slots and show their proficiency level by naming and fitting the shape in the slot the fastest possible. Spatial visualization, association, naming, and recollection of shapes’ names along with the introduction to numbers and colors are some of the learning this shape manipulative provides to early learners.

6. Geoboard


Geoboards come with bands and pattern cards to guide the kids on how to use this shape manipulative. Start with canonical figures like squares and triangles. With the help of arranging the bands on the board’s pegs, the kids learn about making shapes. Even before this, the teachers can use this manipulative for small discussions on associating shapes with names.

Moving to higher learning, kids can experiment with as many shapes as they want. This manipulative can prove its utility in learning asymmetric figures that are also known as embedded figures like trapezium, etc. Enrich the children’s knowledge of shapes with non-canonical figures, such as isosceles triangles at higher grades of learning. This manipulative is ideal for learning about shapes. It enhances spatial awareness, improves eye-hand skills, and stimulates the mind to absorb, retain, and recall the shape memory built in the learning process.

7. Edx Education Mini Geometric Solids

Edx Education Mini Geometric Solids

Introduce the children to geometrical shapes using this shape manipulative in an engaging manner. Color-coded blocks offer an ideal solution for differentiating shapes from one another when they do not know the names. Gradually, you can tell the name of the 3D solid shape they are carrying.

Ask them to associate with the same shapes of other colors, or give them a set of things to pick embedded figures, this shape manipulative offers a smarter way of teaching about shape, size, and color than those provided by 2D presentations or drawings in books.

It provides a collaborative tool, which can be useful in classroom teaching for building shape intelligence in children. The activity time using these solids can be made more interesting by encouraging children to sort, join, or arrange blocks to create more unique shapes.

8. Melissa and Doug Shapes Wooden Chunky Puzzles

Melissa and Doug Shapes Wooden Chunky Puzzles

The Wooden Chunky puzzles in 8 shapes are easy for tiny hands to grasp and make sense of as they start on their shape comprehension journey. The heart-shaped wooden chunks will melt your child’s heart while the star ones are just the right ones to start their starry dreams.

The pieces display full-colour pictures beneath to offer visual clues. They also encourage hand-eye coordination and imaginative play. The bright colored pieces offer a play with a pattern that sure matches the ‘Gold standard in childhood play’ that Melissa and Doug’s toys promise!

9. Edxeducation-21395-Junior Geostix

Edxeducation-21395-Junior Geostix

These Junior Geostix offer a great possibility of shapes that the kids can construct while mixing and matching the colors. Thus, its learning tangent includes 2D and 3D shapes and even color recognition. Follow it up with teaching sorting, sequencing, lengths, and measurements with the endless possibilities this durable stix provides. They also help in the development of motor skills. So get started with the engineer and builder that is hidden in your kid!

10. PicassoTiles Magnet Building tiles

PicassoTiles Magnet Building tiles

There is no limit to your child’s creativity, likewise, the Picasso Magnetic tiles provide an immense possibility of construction and shape your child can build in both 2D and 3D. Make it as tall as you want and teach your child geometric and architectural designs along the way. Add a dash of colors here and there and make it a vibrant activity for your child. Throw in nuggets of knowledge about magnetic polarities as well.

These colossal tile constructions are just the right match for your child’s colossal dreams. Let them fall in love with shapes!

11. hand2mindAngLegs Geometry Set, Shape geometry resource

hand2mindAngLegs Geometry Set, Shape geometry resource

The variety packs of colored angels come in different lengths that allow kids to build polygons of their choice as well as measure different angles. Snapping together different Angles can create a multitude of different geometric shapes like triangles, squares, polygons, and rectangles of varying areas and the protractors can make circles and half circles. Shapes and shapes with increased areas can be learned with this amazing manipulative so that the child gets the added advantage of learning about proportions.

Summing up,

It is very important for children to be familiar with shapes. This simple concept goes a long way and allows building the learning ground for developing geometry skills. Shape identification is needed for learning almost everything that kids learn, such as alphabets, numbers, and also about animals, fruits, and other things of daily use. So, make the path of learning easier with the shape manipulatives and give a solid start to learning.

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