Our project for the Spring Term is ‘Shapes, Space and Structures’
Last term the children took great delight in learning about colours in our ‘Colours and Shapes’ project. There are so many great activities that support this area of learning that we found time was running out, and before we knew it, Christmas was upon us! Although we started to touch on the ‘shapes’ element of the project with the children, there is really so much to explore.
So, for this term we will be really focussing on the shapes that make up our world, and how these shapes can be joined together to form spaces and structures.
Recently there has been an increasing amount of research demonstrating that children’s early spatial thinking predicts their mathematical achievement and understanding in later years. The key skills are visualising what shapes will look like when they are combined or rotated.
When beginning to teach shapes, we start with the most common shapes; squares, triangles, circles, and rectangles, before introducing trickier shapes like diamonds, hexagons, and stars.
It’s interesting to note that when discussing shapes with your child you may find yourself talking about ‘slopey sides’, ‘roof shaped’ or ‘a flat bottom’, and using gestures to help. The vocabulary you use about shape properties, such as sides, edge and corner help children to identify the key features of shapes. The early experiences likely to develop such abilities would seem to be obvious – jigsaw puzzles and construction – and this is indeed what research has found.
We support this with an exciting range of jigsaw puzzles geared to all of the differing age groups and abilities of our children. We know that puzzle play generally improves children’s spatial thinking as they identify the features of pieces and physically rotate them to fit. It also suggests that providing increasingly challenging puzzles and actually teaching children puzzle-solving strategies, will develop children’s spatial skills. Shape puzzles can progress from shape sorters and insert puzzles, to jigsaw puzzles with more pieces and greater complexity.
Block and construction play have always formed an important element of Montessori learning in the early years, with some impressive results. We have a wide range of blocks, geometric shapes and building resources, and we also use natural building resources to encourage further imaginative building skills in our children. It’s interesting that research supports building play that initially takes place between older and younger children together, helps both to gain the most developmentally. The younger child is mirroring and gaining confidence to experiment, whilst the older child is gaining skills in being able to explain and demonstrate the task. Montessori supports this extremely well, as we already know.
Giving your child specific challenges, such as building a boat or a bridge, improves both their mathematics and ability to focus and think flexibly: hence the suggestion by researchers that this might increase ‘school readiness’.
Children will naturally start to recognise the shapes they’ve learnt about in the objects that they see around them. We will be encouraging them to point out and recognise different shapes they can find with indoor and outdoor treasure hunts, a wide range of shape related nursery activities, and also in the story books and songs that we will share through the term ahead.
Physical play can be incorporated by getting our children to actually make the shapes we are learning about with their hands or bodies. Team work will be encouraged to help them complete this task!
As part of the project we will also be talking to the children about architecture, and will be asking them to look at the different shapes, spaces and structures that form familiar buildings like their house, our nursery building etc. We will also be looking at some famous buildings from around the world that can be easily recognised by their shape.
Junk modelling lends itself really well to this project and we will be asking our children to create their own imaginative ‘buildings’ using cardboard boxes, tubes, glue etc. This can be scaled up in the outdoors to create larger sized constructions, and we can note how the shapes leave spaces sometimes large enough for us to walk or crawl through.
If you have any activity ideas, or favourite stories or songs from home that will support our project this term, please do let us know so that we can include them in our nursery day.
We’re excited to be learning about all things shape related and I’ll kick us off with everyone’s favourite shape that’s easy to spot…..THE CIRCLE!