Teaching kids 3D shapes can be difficult because the names of the shapes, and the concept of 3D, is completely foreign to them. Using art projects can be a great way to explain what 3D shapes are, because the interactive nature of projects helps kids learn and allows them to better understand the place of 3D shapes in the real world.
Making 3D Shapes
Setting a project that is as simple as making one 3D shape can be an easy way to introduce this topic to kids. Split the class up and have them work individually, or in groups, to make one 3D shape out of craft materials you have set up in the classroom. A cylinder, for example, can be a confusing term and concept to learn but if you allow them to make this shape by rolling up cardboard and then covering this taped cardboard shape in aluminium foil, they will have a better memory of what exactly a cylinder is.
Have the kids use charcoal pencils and draw regular 2D shapes on the top half of large construction paper. Then get them to draw the 3D versions of these shapes directly underneath, using shading to represent the 3D nature of the the objects. Write the correct terms for each shape on the paper and then hang the drawings around the room to reinforce what the shapes are.
Using foam can help kids to better understand the idea of three dimensions which in turn will help them understand the 3D shapes better. This project also works well around the holiday period because you can make festive decorations. Using red foam, for example, around Valentines Day allows you to cut out 3D hearts, and green foam at Christmas means you can cut out 3D trees. You can even buy thick white foam and have the kids cut out simple shapes such as squares, circles, and triangles, and then allow them to paint and decorate the foam in any way they desire making note of the different aspects and lines that exist now that the shape is not two-dimensional.
Separate the class into groups and assign each group one 2D shape and one 3D shape, such as triangle and prism. Give them all shoe boxes and have them draw the 2D shape in the center of the lid of the box. Then using scissors have the kids carefully cut this shape out. Collect these boxes and place them on a table at the front of the room and allocate them each tools to create the 3D version of their shape, allowing them to use paddlepop sticks, foam, cardboard or any other crafts you have. Once the 3D versions are made, allow them to match up the 3D shape with the 2D cutouts. The key to this project is that only the 3D version of the shape will correctly fit through its 2D shoe box, so if they guess incorrectly they will know because none of the other shapes will fit.