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Easy DIY Preschool Shape Activities with Craft Sticks

Preschool Shape Activities: DIY Independent Learning Activity

Craft sticks are an amazing learning tool. I’ve written about my love of them before (The Best On The Go Activities), and I stand by that. Hand a kid some sticks and they will find a way to play and learn.

It can be easy to add a little direction to the learning while still giving your child an independent activity to play with. And it can be amazingly cheap. (I got my supplies from the Dollar Tree.)

So let’s make an independent activity all about shapes for preschoolers and toddlers.

DIY Shape Game Perfect for Independent Play with picture of multicolored craft sticks labeled to make shapes.

Craft Stick Preschool Shape Activities

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Here is how to make this activity for your kids.


  • Craft sticks

Seriously, all you need for this activity are craft sticks. Well, and a marker. I like using these colorful craft sticks to make the activity a little brighter, but plain sticks work too. Thick ones, thin ones, they are all good.

You might also want a baggie or a rubber band to keep these sticks together when you aren’t playing with them. (This is also a great idea for busy bags.)

How To Make Your Stick Shapes

Start with 3 sticks. (I prefer to use sticks of the same color.) Write the number 3 on each end of the sticks, and if you want you can write the word triangle on each stick. This is your triangle!

Next, get 4 sticks of a different color. Write the number 4 on each end of the sticks and add the word square if you want. This is your square!

You can continue to make as many shapes as you like! Pentagons, hexagons, heptagons, octagons, however many you want.

4 pictures of craft sticks. One picture of multicolored sticks, one of sticks separated into color piles, one with a triangle out of sticks, and one with shapes made out of stickss

Using Your Shape Sticks

Give these sticks to your toddler or preschooler and encourage them to make the shapes.

The first few times you do this activity your child might need some guidance. You can show the sticks and the numbers on them. If you made all the sticks for a shape the same color point out how the color matches.

Then make the shape with your child. If you are doing this with toddlers they might need more help making the shapes. Preschoolers who are more familiar with the shapes might be able to do it on their own sooner.

And remember, if your child comes up with something totally different to do with the sticks, that is okay. Play is learning.

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What Learning Is Happening?

So what is all the learning that is going on here?

Shape Recognition

The most obvious learning goal here is shapes. I go into more detail on why shapes are so important here: Why Kids Need to Learn Shapes. Here is the short version of what learning about shapes teaches children:

  • Understand same and different
  • Work on categorization skills
  • Aid in problem-solving
  • Build spatial relation skills
  • Build math skills
  • Work on early letter recognition

Number Sense

Counting out the sticks helps build number sense. Number sense is knowing that numbers have individual values and these values can interact with each other. (Learn more here: Why Number Sense is So Important.)

When making the shapes you can clearly see the number values in the number of sides each shape has. You can practice counting the vertices of the shapes too.

Takling about the number of sides in each shape helps build math vocabulary too.

Color Practice

If you use the colored sticks you have the perfect opportunity to practice colors! You can name them as you make the shapes. It’s also fun to challenge your child to make the blue shape or the red shape and then see if they can name the shape.

Motor Skills

Getting the shapes to line up properly works motor skills in little ones. They need to manipulate them carefully and make the shapes. Even the act of sorting the sticks will help with this as well.

Independent Problem Solving Skills

Now yes, the first few times you attempt this activity with a toddler you might need to help out. But one goal of this is for your child to be able to play with it independently. That means solving their own problems.

Learning how to play by yourself is a life skill for kids too. Having an activity they can focus on is a good way to start building those skills with your child.

A Simple DIY Shape Learning Activity Perfect for Independent Play with picture of Craft sticks grouped by color and a purple triangle

Learning Shapes Is Fun!

My favorite part of this activity is how easy it is to take on the go. I can toss this in my purse and have a fun way to entertain my child anywhere. It’s colorful, easy, and full of learning.


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