Guest Blogger

Exploring 3D Shapes in Early Math Programming

As children’s librarians, we are pros at introducing shapes to even the youngest of customers in our libraries. How many times have we pointed to a circle in baby time, made triangles with our fingers in toddler time, or sang a shapes song in preschool story time? Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands?

Introducing the concept of 3-Dimensional shapes can be just as easy and is just as important for young learners. As a friend once told me “2D shapes are flat and 3D shapes are fat.” I use this saying frequently in my story times when we look at 3D shapes, such as building blocks, Legos, and various shapes I use on our light table or projector. Introducing 3D shapes to toddlers and preschoolers involves 1. Sharing their correct name 2. Having children use the accurate mathematical term and 3. Giving them time to build with and explore the shape. Youth at these ages do not need to know how many vertices each have, but you can introduce their number of sides. A great chart is shown below:

Information about 3D shapes

I frequently use 3-dimensional geometry in early childhood library programs through block play, engineering challenges (especially Lego Challenges), and flannel board instruction during story time. I also love to make 3D blocks available for exploration on my light table. My favorite blocks for this purpose are from Amazon:

Junior Rainbow Blocks Geometric Solids toy






There are a number of picture book titles that can be paired with 3-D geometry. Some of these titles include:

  • Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building by Christy Hale
  • Changes Changes by Pat Hutchins
  • Block City by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Cubes, Cones, Cylinders, and Spheres by Tona Hoban
  • Not a Box by Antoinette Portis

I’d love to hear other ways that you are incorporating 3D Geometry into your programming. Let me know in the comments!


Headshot of guest blogger, JoAnna SchofieldToday’s guest blogger is Jo Schofield. Jo is a children’s librarian at the Warrensville Heights Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library (OH). She is passionate about exciting youth, families, and coworkers about mathematics. She is the mother of three beautiful children: Jackson (7), Parker (6), and Amelia Jane (4). When not chasing her kids, she can be found painting, reading, and evaluating materials for the 2018 Schneider Family Book Award.  Email her at

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at



  1. Carol Simon Levin

    Excellent post! If it is ok, I’ll put a link to it in my blog. I’m a big fan of including S.T.E.A.M. concepts in storytime — and will be introducing a new series “S.T.E.A.M. Storytime Surprise” starting this fall.

    I’ve also used a number of the books suggested in engineering and architecture programs for preschool & elementary-aged children which incorporate 3D shapes and concepts – you can see some (including this summer’s “Build a Better World — Fairy Tale Engineering series”) here:
    More shape ideas:

    1. Carol Simon Levin

      P.S. The video of Pat Hutchins “Changes, Changes” (available on Public Performance DVD from Weston Woods:“) is quite fun and has a subtle but significant change from the book! (hint, it is the ending)

  2. Jo Schofield

    Thanks for sharing, Carol! Feel free to link to this blog, and please let me know if I can be of any additional help! 🙂

  3. Dianna Burt

    Cool rhyme! Thanks for the ideas and sharing!

  4. Rita King

    Great post Jo! Thank you for sharing. I also love the rhyme!

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