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Parenting for Revolution: Guess Who?

Parenting for Revolution

I recently came across the most beautiful crowd funded game. It’s a version of Guess Who? featuring 28 women called Who’s She?. You can see that campaign here, although it will be over by the time this post publishes. Oddly, I had come across something else about Guess Who? recently. Or maybe I played it recently and noticed a distinct lack of diversity? I don’t remember exactly. The game has improved in terms of gender and race since I owned a copy in the early 90s, but it still leaves something wanting.

Unfortunately the donation amount required to get a copy of the Who’s She? game is prohibitively high for us at $75.oo and I suspect would be out of reach for many families. With one day to go the campaign has raised over half a million dollars so I don’t feel too bad not being able to contribute. But it got me thinking. First, the use of all women is an interesting one and would really allow parents to talk about a variety of women who don’t normally get center stage in history classes. The women included aren’t all that surprising, nor are they unknown, but I don’t remember any except one or two coming up in any history class I took. This is great exposure for kids playing the game.

I also realized that when playing Guess Who? as a kid I never mentioned race when trying to determine which card my opponent had pulled. I know now that as a white person I was taught not to speak about race as a way to uphold and perpetuate white supremacy. We know that “ignoring” color does not, in fact, breed anti-racism, nor does it acknowledge that we all do see color and race as well as erasing the very real ways race impacts people’s lives. Guess Who? also focuses exclusively on appearance, something that can get toxic pretty quick, particularly with girls, whereas Who’s She? turns the focus onto the women’s accomplishments. And they’re all smart, remarkable, strong women. 

I think if you have the game Guess Who? it would make a great jumping off point for getting comfortable saying “black” and “white” (and possibly “Latinx” but a number of the folks pictured in the game are kind of racially ambiguous) out loud. I know this can be a real hurdle for white people to jump, especially with children. I know I used to worry about offending people using the terms or worry about using the wrong term (black vs. African American; Hispanic vs. Latinx). I would also worry that if I used the terms, my kid might repeat it in front of someone and create a cringe-worthy faux pas. I had to get past that and it took some time, but having a place like a board game between my child and I would have helped get the ball rolling.

Wanting our own copy of the game, Cam and I came up with our own list of women to include in our version. Many of them are the same as in Who’s She? but quite a few are not. I bought a copy of Guess Who (which weirdly is not any of the versions I see on Amazon) at the thrift shop and created a board to insert into the game. I color coded the women according to general characteristics (activists, artists, scientist/mathematicians, and athletes). Many of the women fit into more than one category (did you know Mae Jemison did dance too?), but for simplicity sake I assigned them a color/category. We chose a range of women both living and dead, young and old. I also made a point to include women who have a children’s book written about them. 

Which leads to the next piece of this project. For Advent we’re reading one book a day about these women. Guess Who? happens to have 24 slots and there are 24 days in December leading up to Christmas. We aren’t actually celebrating Christmas this year, but I can’t quite get rid of Advent calendars and Advent. I dunno. This gives us an opportunity to talk about these impressive women and about any of the issues that were/are a part of their lives. 

I’m going to share the game cards that I made so others can print them out and use them. I suggest printing either on cardstock or laminating them so they hold up for longer. Also, the version of the game we got looks similar to this although I cannot find the exact version on Amazon. That being said, you can still use the cards I made if you have the normal version. Print them out, laminate them, and cut them out to slip into the traditional version of the boards. I am in the process of making cards for each woman that features her name, her picture, and a few sentences about her life and what she is known for. I will post those as soon as I have them, but in the meantime you can print a second copy of the first page and cut those up to make a deck of cards. 

Click here to download the game boards for printing: Guess Who Women

Color scheme:

purple = athlete

green = mathematician/scientist

pink = artist

orange/yellow = activist

Our Goodwills are full to the brim with board games, please go buy a used version if you don’t already have one. There is no reason to spend $10-$15 and create more waste with a new one when I suspect there will be at least two copies at your local thrift store for $5 or under. Remember, you only need the boards, not the cards so if the game isn’t complete it doesn’t much matter.  

A few words about the license on this work

You are free to: 


  • Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material

Under the following terms:



  • ShareAlike — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.

Zero Waste: Backpack Kit

Zero Waste BannerAs I’ve been transitioning to a zero waste/low impact lifestyle I decided to kit out my backpack/baby bag with some zero waste essentials. Here’s a run down of what I keep in there.

  • dish towel– for drying hands, wrapping up food, I don’t alway have this on me
  • canvas tote bag– I have a ton of these at home that I’ve collected over the years, I take them with me separately to the grocery store, but sometimes I stop and don’t have the bags with me, this saves me from balancing items or from taking a bag
  • cloth diapers– we have some all-in-one diapers that I’m not wild about for using around the house, they function like disposable diapers in that they’re single use, so they’re perfect for out and about, wrap the wipes up inside them and tuck them into a wet bag, no need to worry about soaker pads or wet outers
  • food container– for leftovers or take out, ours flattens out which makes it easier to carry around when not in use
  • bamboo utensils– my husband and I each bought a set of these years ago to use for lunches at work, I have packed them in the backpack to use when we go places that only offer plastic ware or if we happen to need some flatware
  • reusable straws- again, for places that only offer plastic
  • coffee mug– I don’t always keep this in the backpack because with the diaper essentials and the weight of the cup it can get tight and heavy, but if we’re ever out and we need a cup for water or for coffee I like to have it, something lighter weight like those reusable Starbucks cups that cost $2-$3 would probably be totally fine

These are just some ideas for what you might want to carry with you to help reduce your waste while out and about. There are plenty of other zero wasters/low impact folks out there with additional or similar ideas. You might want to look for those to get some inspiration for other things you may want/need to carry with you. This is just a starting point. You may also want things that are more minimal or collapse down if you aren’t carrying around a large purse of backpack all the time.

New Baby Busy Bags

We’re going to take a break from the Summer of Mess today. Last week got busy and we didn’t get around to our messy play on Thursday. 

One of my best friends has a two-year-old daughter and is expecting her second baby in about a month. While one of the best things you can give new parents are frozen meals, I also decided to give them something that would help their toddler. It’s got to be hard to no longer have the undivided attention of your parents as well as deal with the stress of a newborn in the house. To both keep her entertained and give her something shiny and new I decided to put together a huge basket of busy bags and quiet boxes for her. And since I’ve been sharing our quiet boxes here I thought I would type up a list of the boxes and bags I created for a 27 month old. Some are more challenging than others, but I figured they would serve well over the coming months. 

  1. Large lacing beads
  2. Popsicle stick puzzles: I printed off three pictures and glued them to large popsicle sticks, then cut them apart.
  3. Farm play set: glass jewels, blocks, farm animals
  4. Collage bag: stickers, paper, colored pencils
  5. Jungle play set: play-doh, jewels, animal figures, colored matchsticks
  6. Color matching: I created a paper with columns. Each column had a colored square at the top. Then I laminated strips of colors that can be set in each column. I used animal pictures, but you could use strips of paint chips.
  7. Fabric squares: This is kind of like a puzzle. See a tutorial here. I made a much simpler version with fabric scraps I had on hand.
  8. Shape matching puzzle: I outlined some foam shapes on a card for matching. Included a Cookie Monster shape book.
  9. Nuts and bolts: nuts and bolts to put together and a copy of Anne Rockwell’s The Toolbox
  10. I Spy jar: I filled a jar with rice and a bunch of objects. By turning the jar she can find the different things hidden inside. There is also an I Spy easy reader.
  11. Toy cars
  12. Chalkboard and chalk
  13. Sticker farm scene
  14. Pattern blocks: This was a set I found at the thrift shop. It had both foam pattern blocks and cards with pictures to make. 
  15. Cups and index cards: For making card houses.
  16. Links and bracelets
  17. Doll with bedtime set: I bought a tiny fairy doll and made her a mattress, pillow and blanket. I also put Joanne Cole’s I’m a Big Sister book in there. 
  18. Left or Right?: This is a book that studies left and right with just photographs a la Tana Hoban. I also printed off a beautiful left and right side butterfly matching game which you can find here
  19. Tweezing: foam cubes, plastic cups, tweezers
  20. Bear dress up: This is one of those wooden sets where you match up the head, top and bottoms.
  21. Marble runs: wooden blocks, large bouncy balls, tp tubes cut in half to make channels
  22. Frog world: based on our water play from the other day
  23. Lacing cards: I printed off these, laminated them and then punched large holes for a shoelace to thread through. 

The dollar store is a treasure trove if you think outside the box. Stroll through their aisles and look for loose pieces, fun games, etc. For about $50 I was able to pull the vast majority of these together and buy bags and containers for them all. The two exceptions are the lacing beads and the dress-up bear. Those are Melissa & Doug and I bought them online. 

Summer of Mess: Quiet Boxes Week 1

Part of this summer is working on Cam extending the time she is able to play by herself. We will both still be home come this fall, but I would like for her to be less dependent on me to play with her. That isn’t to say I will never play with her again. I just don’t want to feel like she constantly wants and needs me to be her playmate. I am also working on figuring out how to incorporate her into a lot of the chores I do. Sometimes it’s easier and more successful than others, but I think that gives her that connection she’s looking for when she asks me to play with her.

The other thing that seems to be happening is that Cam is phasing out her afternoon nap. She frequently still needs it, but there are some days when she just can’t fall asleep even though she’s tired. For those days I need something quiet that she can do, often without me. 

In order to help her find things to do when she goes off to play or during rest time, I have put together these quiet boxes (or busy bags, or I-can-do-it-myself boxes, or whatever you want to call them). 

This week we have:

Quiet Boxes Week 1

Box 1: Sewing burlap on an embroidery hoop. The holes in the burlap make it easy for her to poke the needle through and we can also pull the string out once she’s sewn it all in. 

Box 2: Paint with water book. I remember these from when I was a kid and I loved them. Cam is into painting, but I don’t want her getting the paints out if I’m not around to help set up. This allows her to paint without me. And it’s Hello Kitty. Thank you, dollar store. The bin has the book (which has tear-out pages) a paint brush, and a small bowl for her to fill with water.

Box 3: Small world play. I put some Play-doh, colored matchsticks, and rubber dinosaurs in this basket. I’ll see what she does with it. 

Box 4: Foam blocks and wet rag. I came across this idea on Pinterest. If you wet the rag and get the blocks wet with it, the water tension holds the blocks together tightly. This is great for building with what are usually flimsy blocks. 

Activity in the Hive: Sound Wall

We recently bought several large bales of straw and when the feed store loaded it into our truck they included the pallet with it. My husband wanted to use it for something and I had just recently asked him to build a sound wall for Cam so he decided to use the pallet for that. 

Sound Wall 1

Pallet sound wall

A sound wall doesn’t necessarily have to be a wall, but it is a space where children can explore the different sounds objects make when they strike them with their hands and with various mallets. We bought all out items at the thrift shop and my husband attached them in various ways to the pallet which is now mounted on our fence in the swing area. 

Included on the wall:

  • pot lid
  • metal bowl
  • loaf pan
  • ribbed plastic tube
  • small oven rack
  • plastic bin
  • metal muffin cups
  • two threaded rods with stacks of washers on them (seen on the right of the wall and in the detail picture to the right)
  • whisk (for whacking with)
  • metal spoon (also for whacking with)
Threaded rods and washers

Threaded rods and washers

At some point I would like to add some metal flatware bundled together and some canning jar rings tied together. I think those would add another little element. If you are interested in making on there are tons of ideas on Pinterest. It doesn’t necessarily require a pallet (we just happened to have one) and can be as small or large as you want it to be. Just be mindful of your neighbors who will have to listen to the “music” played by your child. 🙂

Handwork: Easy-On Apron

One of the presents I made for Cam for Christmas is an art smock/apron that she can easily put on herself. I was inspired by some aprons we saw at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in their toddler splash area. The genius of them was that they had straps that came around and Velcroed down. It was a simple matter of helping Cam slip it on over her head and she got the rest. I was also inspired by a child’s apron I saw on Etsy that used a towel for the fabric. 

This is a pretty simple project that requires some sewing on the machine. It took me about an hour to make, but I was creating the steps as I went along. If you’re a fairly proficient seamstress I would say you could have it done in half an hour. 

Easy-On ApronWhat You’ll Need

  • an old towel
  • one of your child’s t-shirts (this is to help you gauge the size)
  • bias tape (1 package, but the length will depend on the size of your neck hole)
  • Velcro strips, preferably stick down with strong adhesive
  • scissors
  • sewing machine
  • thread

What To Do

  1. Fold the towel in half and lay out. Place the t-shirt on it to help gauge width and length. I used one of the finished sides (with a hem) and the bottom to reduce the amount of sewing I would have to do. Be sure to make it long enough that it will cover your child’s front. I was generous with length knowing that Cam would grow over the next year. Cut out two pieces, a front and a back. You can cut them together. 
  2. Cut a half round out for the neck. 
  3. Stitch the shoulder together. If your apron is long enough/child is big enough, you may be able to use the fold of the towel to create the shoulders. If that’s the case, you can skip this step.
  4. Pin the bias tape around the neck hole and stitch down. 
  5. Zig-zag stitch the side that isn’t hemmed. Alternatively you could fold over the fabric and do a real hem. You could also put bias tape down it or even around the entire outside edge. I just didn’t have enough to do that and the neck hole. I don’t have a picture of this specifically, but you can see it in the picture above.
  6. From the towel scraps cut two strips about 8-10 inches long. Zig-zag stitch all the way around them to help hem them. You could also use a different fabric here and sew tubes that you turn out if you want to get fancy. 
  7. Place your straps about 2/3rds of the way down on the inside of the back of the apron. Stitch down.
  8. Bring the straps around to the front and stick down the Velcro. I had a large patch of Velcro that I cut pieces from, but if you use the strip Velcro you can use both sides. Stick one side to the strap and one to the front of the apron. The terry cloth fabric of the towel actually loosely sticks to the stiff Velcro. 

Handwork: Martinmas

Gluing Lanterns I wrote last year about Martinmas and what we did. Our celebration this year was similar. Since St. Martin was known for sharing his cloak with a beggar one cold winter night we purchased a coat to give to the local coat drive. We made cookies which I will share in the December Cam in the Kitchen post. We also made the traditional lanterns for the holiday.

Martinmas LanternSince Cam was older this year I picked a lantern that she could make on her own. I made four and she made three which was about right. We’re giving them out to family and friends again. 


  • smooth-sided jars
  • pieces of tissue paper
  • white glue
  • paintbrushes
  • small bowl for glue

What To Do

  • I got some things set up on a tray a day or two before we actually did the craft. This made it easy to get it out and make the lanterns, but isn’t essential. I do suggest some prep before you get started though.
  • Cut the tissue paper into small- and medium-sized pieces. They will be covering the outside of the jars so use the sizes of your jars to decide how big to cut the pieces. 
  • In the small bowl, mix some white glue with a bit of water to thin it out. It should be think enough that it doesn’t really drip when painted on the jar, but not so thick it’s hard to spread.
  • Paint a layer of glue onto the outside of the jar. You can work in sections or cover the whole outside.
  • Begin placing the pieces of tissue paper around the outside. They can overlap. If you have a young child it might be easier for you to hold the jar while they place the tissue paper scraps on.
  • Once you have a patch (or the whole jar covered) brush over the tissue paper with the glue sticking the pieces down more and creating a thin layer to protect the paper. This will keep it from peeling off so easily and acts a bit like Modge Podge.  
  • Allow to dry completely. Place a candle inside (we use the battery operated candles, but you can use votives or tea lights).

Handwork: Play Canopy

Play CanopyAfter rearranging Cam’s room a few months ago there was a particular corner that just needed a little something more. It really needed something to draw the eye up and fill the space. To accomplish this I made a play canopy. It isn’t perfect, but Cam loves it and it was really simple to make. My husband was actually the one who came up with the idea to use an embroidery hoop and pushed us to go out and buy the supplies. It looks like a long process but it won’t take long- a couple hours at most depending on your sewing skills. 


  • sewing machine
  • large embroidery hoop (the bigger the better)
  • panels of tulle (we used four, each one a different color; the number of panels you need will depend on the width of the fabric and the size of the hoop, be sure the number of panels will be able to go all the way around your hoop and overlap each other a bit)
  • ribbon or string (to gather the top)
  • hook to hang it

What to do:

  1. Measure the height of your ceiling. This will determine how long each panel of tulle should be. We have 8 foot ceilings so we bought 3 yard lengths.
  2. Fold the top of the each panel of tulle over. Stitch it down so that it makes a hem at the top. This is where you will thread the ribbon or string through and gather the top. 
  3. Determine where you want your hoop to fall along the panel and in relation to your ceiling. This may depend on how high your ceiling is and how wide your hoop is. Stitch a basting or gathering stitch. I stitched around 30 inches down from the top. 
  4. Measure the circumference of your hoop if you don’t know it already. Divide that number by the number of panels you have. Add in the amount you want each panel to overlap. Add this number in twice (once for each side). This number is the width you need to gather your panels down to. So if your hoop is 45 inches in circumference and you have five panels: 45/5= 9 inches. If you want them to overlap by 3 inches add in 6 inches. Gather the panel to 15 inches wide.
  5. Open the hoop up and start to place the panels around the circumference. Place the hoops where the gathering stitch is. Put the hoops back together and begin to tighten them a little so it holds the panels in place while you adjust them. This part was really tricky for me. Feel free to curse as you do this. Don’t worry if they don’t line up perfectly. Just be sure the gathering stitch is hidden. When the panels are in place tighten the hoop completely.
  6. Run the ribbon through the top hem and gather. I used two pieces of ribbon and gathered two panels onto each. I then tied bows to connect the two ribbons- one bow on either side. I used the bows to hang the hoop, but you could just expose a bit of ribbon or string on either side and use that to hang it. 
  7. Place the hook in the ceiling and hang your canopy.

As a side note, the picture of the canopy doesn’t show it where it was actually hanging. We have since had to move it. 

For Your Classroom: Letters and Postcards

About a year ago I subscribed to a couple of magazines for Cam, Ranger Rick, Jr. and High Five (Highlights for younger kids). While she has enjoyed the reading the magazines, recently she has really gotten interested in getting them out of the mailbox. Whenever she sees me check for mail she asks if she got a new magazine. I think everyone loves to receive mail. Not bills of course, but letters and cards and magazines. 

Letter writing and playing Post Office is a great way to encourage literacy and imagination. And your child doesn’t have to be writing or reading yet to enjoy “writing” a letter. They can simply draw a picture or scribble out “words”. You can write them letters, too. Just a card with their name inside will help familiarize them with what their name looks like written out. 

Letters & Postcards


The Day It Rained Hearts by Felicia Bond: I know I’ve talked about this book before, but I just love it. Cornelia Augusta finds a variety of hearts in a rainstorm and uses them to make Valentine’s cards for her friends which she then mails. It’s such a sweet story about how touching it is to receive a handmade card in the mail. 

The Seven Little Postmen by Margaret Wise Brown: An old classic Golden Book that is still in print. It shows you how a letter from a little boy passes through the postal system to get to his grandmother. The illustrations are funny and have a lot to look at (keep your eye out for the letter) and the story is really engaging. Some of the methods may be a bit outdated, but it’s still relevant. 

The Jolly Little Postman or Other People’s Letters by Allan and Janet Ahlberg: The jolly postman delivers letters to fairy tale characters then returns home at night to his own pot of tea and mail. Not only are the references to the fairy tales clever, but this book has the actual letters he delivers in it. Each time he visits a new person (or animal) there is a pocket that looks like an envelope that has a letter and often something else to pull out and read. So Cinderella gets a letter from her publisher and a copy of the book they are publishing for her. We love this book, and although you have to be a bit gentle with it, it is so worth that lesson. 

Angelina’s Invitation to the Ballet by Katherine Holabird: I am less familiar with this one, but it has the same format as The Jolly Postman, with letters to pull out and read. It would be good for those fans of Angelina or the ballet. It is out of print so you may have to find a used copy or check your local library system (which is where I found the copy I read).

*I am waiting on a few books from the library to read through and decide if I want to include them here. I will update as I get them in and reflect on them.

Update: 9/25/2014:

The Post Office Book: Mail and How It Moves by Gail Gibbons: This has surprisingly little text for a Gibbons book, but there are tons of pictures which help tell the story of how the post office receives, sorts, processes, moves, and delivers mail. I like that the colors in it are red, white and blue like the post office and the limited palette in some ways focuses your attention in the drawings so you can read them. A good general information book. It may be a bit outdated (I’m sure there are more computers and automation now), but for the most part it’s still very current. 

The Post Office by David and Patricia Armentrout: This book is less detailed about the mailing process which might make it a slightly better fit for younger kids than Gibbons’ book. Instead of drawings The Post Office book features photographs for illustrations. It is clearly much more recent because it shows a more expensive stamp, an automated postage machine and new machines. There is a great two-page spread detailing how to address an letter. 

A Letter to Amy by Ezra Jack Keats: Another classic from Keats. Peter wants to invite his friend and neighbor Amy to his birthday party. To make the invitation more special he decides to make an invitation and mail it. On his way to the mailbox though, a gust of wind carries the letter off. Peter chases it around and catches it just as Amy rounds the corner. Unfortunately Amy is knocked down in the process and runs away crying while Peter slips the letter into the mail. Now he isn’t sure if she’ll be there for his party. A good story about why you might mail a letter as well as a friendship. 


Mail Carrier’s Song

(Sung to Row, Row, Row Your Boat)

Write, write, Write your cards,

and lots of letters, too!

I will bring them to your friends,

And maybe they’ll write back soon!

(Source: http://www.preschool-plan-it.com/post-office.html; You may want to visit this site they have a ton of ideas for a post office theme in a classroom.)

Dramatic Play Area Ideas

Setting up an area with supplies for a post office makes a great dramatic play area that also incorporates literacy. You could also use this as an opportunity to write thank you notes to friends and family if you have recently had a holiday or birthday celebration. Here are some ideas for things to include:

  • Postman Costume for dress up
  • A small canvas bag can become a mail sack for deliveries
  • Cards or stationary from the dollar store or the dollar bin (that way when they scribble on a lot of them, you don’t feel so bad)
  • Stamps (either one cent stamps or stickers that look like stamps)
  • Pens, pencils, markers
  • An example letter (so they can copy the format of the envelope and even the letter inside)
  • Address labels (I get a ton of those address labels from charities, I put those out for Cam to use)
  • A mail box (both for mailing and for receiving letters; we used an old mail box we found in our garage, but you could just as easily create one from a shoebox)
  • A few boxes for packages (the post office has official boxes, you can snag a few for free)

 DIY & Activities

DIY Cardboard Mailbox  If you have a large cardboard box laying around and feel motivated, this would be so awesome for posting letters. 

Writing Station from An Everyday Story I scaled this idea way down for Cam since she isn’t ready to actually write letters or word. A small pencil holder with stamps and stickers, pencils and a couple pens, and some cards and envelopes. 

Draw Your Own Postcard A printable postcard from the Picklebums blog that has a large blank space on the front so you can draw your own postcard. Alternatively you could simple cut some heavy cardstock down to the size of a postcard (approximately 4×6). What I love most about this printable is that the back of the postcard is included with the address lines, a place for the stamp and the line that separates the address and letter portion. 

For Your Classroom: Shapes

I had a small provocation set out all summer. It was a box of pattern blocks and the books Color Farm and Color Zoo. It took months for Cam to pick up the books, but she finally did and she has also begun to engage with the pattern blocks. I’m surprised it took so long as she’s played with the Mighty Mind for awhile now and is good at making most of the pictures. She is also very much a puzzle fan.

Shapes are something many kids learn to identify early. We point them out in our house, in books, on their clothes. Shapes are everywhere, so it makes sense that children would learn them. Shapes are an early math concept and with such an emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) in the media lately I thought I would share how we have approached shapes and a few other shape resources.

Shapes: Ages 1-4


Of course we always read books. There are a lot of shape books out there. I chose these particular titles because they are more engaging for toddlers and young children. Some even base a plot around shapes.

Color Zoo & Color Farm by Lois Ehlert: I love these books by Lois Ehlert. I think it’s an engaging way to show children how you can use simple shapes to create pictures. I think they go along well with a material like pattern blocks or shape cutouts. There isn’t a story here exactly but your child could make one up using the various animals included. Beware, if you have very young children and end up with a paper copy of this (as opposed to the board book), tears of the pages may happen!

Mouse Shapes by Ellen Stoll Walsh: This one does have a plot. Three mice are running away from a cat when they stumble upon a pile of shapes. They use the shapes to create a little world for an imaginary mouse. This does a good job of demonstrating how to use shapes to make pictures.

Shapes, Shapes, Shapes by Tana Hoban: I remember loving Tana Hoban’s books growing up. The large pictures with colors to highlight whatever concept she was illustrating were just so pleasing. Shapes, Shapes, Shapes shows children shapes in everyday life. You could use this as a jumping off point for the shape search activity below.

Away We Go! by Chieu Anh Urban: This one is a shape book for the transportation fans and for younger audiences. As with Color Zoo and Color Farm it features die cut shapes on the pages, a feature kids seem to like to use to turn the pages. 🙂


I know there has been a lot of upset over using television or video with kids. However, I think it’s fine to include a variety of media when teaching children. The most important part is to watch with your child and discuss what they have seen to help them to process and internalize it. The research backs this up as the most effective method for watching videos with an educational intent.

Sesame Street: Shapes I loved Sesame Street as a kid. Didn’t everyone? The Sesame Street website has several topics you can select where they have aggregated a number of video clips from episodes of the show (as opposed to having to watch through the entire episode) that pertain to the topic.

Songs & Poems

Poems About Shapes I couldn’t think of any traditional finger plays or nursery rhymes that were specifically about shapes, but I did find this huge list of poems, finger plays, and songs about shapes. Toddlers are especially fond of singing, or at least mine is, so bonus points there!

Barney’s “We Like the Shapes” A cute little song about squares, circles, and triangles and the number of sides they have. I know these kids songs can seem really hokey, but most kids really enjoy them.


On the simplest level you can cut out a variety of shapes and sizes of shapes from colored paper or craft foam. This was probably the place we talked about shapes the most, aside from pointing them out in our house and around the neighborhood. Just as a side note, I don’t get a commission from you buying any of these things. In fact I don’t necessarily endorse any one brand. We’ve had good luck with some and been happy with the quality but not with others. But there isn’t really a rhyme or reason to which and quality seems to vary between products within a brand.

Shape ToysPattern Blocks This is a material that should have longevity. Kids like to rearrange them to form pictures, patterns, and geometric designs for years. You might even discover that you like them. They make a good quiet time activity for those non-nappers. You can also use them to study symmetry later on, just throw in a mirror to build against.

Shape sorter There are a lot of shape sorters out there. You can pick one based on what you can afford, your aesthetic preferences, even sustainability. Cam has not be interested in the larger one we had, however when she was about 16-18 months I bought a sorter that had only three shapes. This seemed to be about her speed at that age. If you are so inclined, here is a DIY version. 

Peg puzzle These can double as something to trace when they are a bit older, rather like the Montessori geometric cabinet. Again we started with a small four-shape peg puzzle and moved up to one with 7 or 8 pieces.

Poch Poch These are essentially pattern blocks, but they have a little hole for a tiny nail to go through and a hammer to bang the nail into a cork board. You actually hit (no pun intended) a lot of skills with this one, especially fine motor control and spacial sense. My daughter at three is just getting the hang of it, but really it’s designed for the fours and fives or even older. Keep your eye out in thrift shops for this one, it does turn up occasionally.

Colorforms Admittedly, these last two are brand name items, but they are pretty good so I don’t feel too bad suggesting something specific. Colorforms are rather like pattern blocks but with curves and lots of colors. They have made various sets over the years, but the basic idea is they are made from a clingy plastic and come with a board that you place them on. They are kind of tiny so they aren’t great for little ones, but you could, in theory, use them in the car depending on your child. I found our set in the thrift shop for a couple dollars.

DIY & Activities

If you don’t want to buy more toys (I totally understand!) the following are a few ideas for making some games that you can then play with your child to reinforce the concept of shapes.

Popsicle stick shape puzzle The basic idea here is that you paint popsicle sticks in matching colors for the sides of shapes, so four green popsicle sticks for the square. Your child then matches the color and creates the shape. The blog simply shows a picture of what they have done, no instructions, but it’s basic enough I think it’s easy to recreate. (Source: ABeeC Preschool Blog)

Memory game with shapes I think we’ve all played memory before. Here is a DIY version that uses shapes instead of pictures. (Source: Dandee Designs)

Shape sort Shape sorting/matching. If you make the memory game above, you could reuse the cards/chips and an egg carton to create this game. (Source: Mess for Less)

Stamps & stencils Both of these also give children the opportunity to practice their fine motor skills. Most kids can handle stamps, but they can get messy and they aren’t always super accurate. As for stencils, this is a hard skill but you could also have your child run their finger around the stencil to feel the shape.

Shape Search Walk around your house or neighborhood with your child. As you go, look for shapes in the everyday objects around the house. You can pick them up and place them in piles, you could keep a list of the objects grouped by shape, you could take photographs or draw little pictures. The purpose is to begin seeing and identifying shapes all around. You could even turn this into a car game where you call out the object and shape. You can use the Tana Hoban book Shapes, Shapes, Shapes as a starting point for this activity. This blog has a creative idea, using painter’s tape to create large outlines of various shapes on the carpet. As you collect items from around your house you place them within the corresponding outline.