My two year old, who is nearly three now, has been taking notice of the shapes all around him quite a bit lately. I try to naturally incorporate an objective like this in my discussions and play with him, especially if it's a current interest. When I base our play around an interest it only deepens what he is learning.
"I see a blue circle on your paper." When he shows me his drawings.
"Can you find a triangle block for me." If we are building together.
"Let's hop on the squares in the sidewalk to the car." On a walk outside.
The names associated with these symbols are picked up in our day to day play and activities. We do this with letters that are in the names of members of our family; M for mom, D for dad, and colors as well.
Because he has been more vocal about shapes I've been more purposeful about how I approach our meals or when he cooks with me. We cut things into squares and triangles. He feels the difference in his hands between the oval shape of an egg and the circular shape of an orange. He helps me look for rectangular things to eat at the grocery store. We bake cookies and add a favorite shape to them.
It doesn't stop there though. We talk about the utensils and tools we use to eat our food with too; circle cups and plates, square spatulas and pans, and oval spoons. It's the language incorporated into what we are doing.
Now I can offer shape based play and actvities in other areas of our day as well...
BUT... I love using food as an example because it's one of the very few things we can use all five of our senses with.
Why does this matter?
Because the MORE senses that are involved when learning something, the BETTER our brains remember what we learned! My son will not only remember shapes more easily, but he will recognize or notice shapes in other settings more easily as well. Food is the most hands on thing I can use to teach him.
Sense of smell has been known to trigger memories because of the location of memory processing in the brain to where smell is processed. The brain plays a part in our other senses as well. So when we are trying to remember information we have learned, it is easier to retain it when the brain can rely on multiple senses. There are multiple connections being made.
If you'd like to read more about this, the book Brain Rules has a great section on sensory integration. I love a good book about how our brains work because it explains A LOT about how we learn.
If you don't use food, try to offer activites that engage at least three senses. Otherwise cook and use food as learning opportunities as often as you can with your kids, simply because it's good for them!
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