Children love to explore! That is a widely accepted fact! So here’s a little project you can do quickly and inexpensively to create a fun exploration station where they can explore shape, size, and texture, and create designs to their little hearts’ content!
First, cut a variety of geometric shapes out of sturdy cardboard. I like to have smaller and larger versions of the same shapes for larger/smaller comparisons, and I also like to use some of the unit block principles (two triangles are the same size as one square, two squares are the same as one rectangle, etc.). Next, cover those shapes with a variety of textures. Go through your fabric scraps for silky, bumpy, ribbed, or wooly. Raid your tool shelves for sandpaper and dig through your craft closet for smooth foam or spent and wrinkly aluminum foil. One of my favorite textures is created from corrugated cardboard. Sometimes you can find it with the corrugates exposed, other times you have to peel back one layer. It’s fantastically bumpy!
Add self-adhesive magnets to the back and use them on a magnet board against the wall or at your working tables. (If you’re concerned about the children pulling off the magnets, you may want to cover them with packing tape, or cover the entire back with contact paper.)
As children create a variety of designs with the geometric shapes (patterns, butterflies, etc.) talk about the names of the shapes, how the shapes feel, and how they compare in size. This encourages language skills as they describe the shapes and the stories behind their designs, creativity as they come up with their designs, as well as math skills as they begin to be familiar with the characteristics of geometric shapes and can compare them using terms like smaller than, larger than, half as big, etc. While they’re at it, they’re also using their small motor skills to manipulate the pieces, science knowledge is built as they explore with the magnets, and social skills would certainly come into play if they happen to be working with a partner. Wow! Who knew one fun little exploration center could support so many different areas? There are even more objectives that could come into play, but my fingers are cramping up, so you’ll just have to recognize those yourselves!
Often, after free-play time, as I’m gathering the group, I will grab these shapes and ask who played with that area that day. Then we’ll quickly go through the shapes as a large group, discussing the shape names and characteristics as well as their textures. This creates a quick opportunity for review as a group, while also sparking interest in that area for the next day.