"The freest child is the child who is most interested in what he is doing, and at whose hand are the materials for his work or play."
―Caroline Pratt, I Learn from Children
As parents, we want to provide the very best for our child. However, inundating a child's mind and the nursery with lots and lots of toys only makes it difficult for a child to focus on a single toy. Instead of buying more, parents should focus on buying a few key toys that can introduce different skills and help in the child's development. The toy should not only entertain the kid, but also fulfill an educational role for the child.
Shape sorters have entertained and challenged children for centuries and this classic toy is a must have for your child. The basic versions of the shape sorters consist of wooden or plastic cubes or balls with different shaped cutouts, along with three-dimensional shapes, to fit correspondingly shaped holes. Children love the challenge of fitting the shapes through a particular hole or gap. As kids learn to grasp and push the shapes along the holes, they develop and improve fine motor and problem-solving skills.
Benefits of Shape Sorter Toys for Babies
Development of Fine Motor Skills
The coordination of movements of the smaller muscles of the hands and feet are known as fine motor skills. The development and mastery of these skills are essential for day-to-day activities like eating, picking up things between his/her fingers, writing, and many other small everyday tasks. When children pick up different shapes in their hand, turn them over, and fit them into corresponding holes, it helps in the development of these skills. In addition to this, removing the shapes from the cubes and dumping them out helps in the development of gross motor skills, which is essential for overall development and strengthening of the body.
Learning about Cause and Effect
When the child does something to get a reaction, it teaches and reinforces the concepts of cause and effect. The understanding of this cognitive concept allows a child to make predictions about what could happen and reflect upon what caused something to happen.
The curiosity level of a baby is extremely high. A child will simply roll a ball to see where it goes or push a button to check if it makes a sound. He/She does manipulates the object over and over again to get results. The observation helps them in understanding cause-and-effect relationships. A shape sorter is the perfect toy to introduce this concept. The child realizes that pushing the shape into the right holes will provide them a satisfying 'clunk'.
Similarly, the child understands the concept of object permanence. Even though the shape is temporarily out of sight, the child knows that by opening the cube, he/she can find it again.
Improvement in Problem-solving Skills
Toddlers are fascinated with challenges or obstacles, and persistently seek a solution to their problems or challenges. The promotion of this key skill is vital for the child's success, confidence, and independence. These toys encourage logical and lateral thinking to resolve their problems. This is one skill that a child is born with.
Sorting the shapes using a shape sorter helps in honing a child's problem-solving skills. So, when a child tries to fit a triangle into a circular hole and it does not fit, he/she then stops trying to fit it in that hole and moves to another hole.
Familiarity with Shapes and Colors
The shape sorter teaches a toddler about the shape names, their properties, and the difference between each shape. For example, a child learns to differentiate between a square and a rectangle or a diamond and a square. Since most of the shape sorters come in bright colors, children learn about colors and their names. Some shape and size sorters allow children to learn about sizes as well.
Basic math skills like the angles and the number of sides can be taught using this educational toy. The understanding of size, shape, and patterns along with the ability to count is the basis of early mathematical skills.
Grows with the Child
Shape sorters are truly versatile toys that grow with the child. From teaching a child to grasp things to helping them match the right shapes, the shape sorter can be a great learning tool during each developmental stage. When the child is around eight- to nine-months-old, he/she can differentiate between forms and colors. By the time they are a year old they will learn to fill the cube with the toys and take them out again. A two-year-old can generally manipulate the blocks and try to match the shapes. By the time the child is three- to four-years old, he/she can match the shapes, and memorize their names.
Types of Shape Sorters
Now that you know how amazing shape sorters really are, you would definitely want to pick one for your child. There are many sizes and variations of shape sorters in the market, from the basic wooden ones to battery-operated bright and colorful sorters.
Basic Shape Sorters
Meant for children under the age of two, these plastic or wooden shape sorters are ball- or box-shaped containers with circular, square, rectangular, and triangular holes. The chunky shapes in the basic shape sorters are easier to grip and the bright colors and designs make them fun for the child. There are battery-operated versions of the basic shape sorters with musical sounds and prerecorded voices that encourage the child each time he/she matches a shape.
Some great shape sorters include:
- Fisher-Price Brilliant Basics Baby's First Blocks
- Tupperware Shape-O Toy
- Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Cookie Shape Surprise
Advanced Shape Sorters
Three- to four-year-old children learn to recognize and match shapes and colors perfectly. This may be the right time to introduce them to advanced shape sorters that introduce additional concepts such as time or different sizes. A three-year-old can also understand complex shapes, such as pentagon, crescent, or hexagon, which a younger child would probably not understand. Multi-shape sorting boards, which allow children to connect matching shapes before finding the right groove for it, are also popular.
Some amazing picks include:
- Melissa & Doug Wooden Shape Sorting Clock
- Melissa & Doug Shape Sequence Sorting Set
- Wonderworld Geo Wooden Shape Sorter
When choosing a shape sorter, ensure that it is well-made, and does not contain any small parts. This classic educational tool can be a great 'first toy' choice for babies, and can be used by the child from six months onwards.