Grade Levels: K-3

This page provides information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about solid shapes. It is designed to complement the Solid Shapes topic page on BrainPOP Jr.

Your children are most likely familiar with basic, two-dimensional plane shapes such as squares, rectangles, circles, and triangles. We recommend watching the Plane Shapes movie together as a review. They may have experience with three-dimensional solids from block-building, but may not have the vocabulary to describe and discuss them. You can build on their knowledge about solid figures, which are three-dimensional shapes such as cubes, rectangular prisms, pyramids, cylinders, cones, and spheres. Your children should be able to identify basic solid shapes and understand their similarities and differences. Begin to introduce fundamental concepts and vocabulary in geometry, such as vertex/vertices, edges, faces, and bases. Encourage your children to find basic solid shapes all around them.

Most children are familiar with cubes. Number cubes or dice, ice cubes, and some boxes are shaped like cubes. A cube has six flat surfaces, or faces. Each face is shaped like a square with equal lengths of sides. A cube also has twelve edges and eight vertices. Remind your children that a vertex is a corner of a shape. The plural form of the word vertex is vertices. Present different examples of cubes to your children and help them identify the faces, edges, and vertices. A rectangular prism is a solid figure that has the same number of faces, edges, and vertices as a cube. As the name suggests, the faces of a rectangular prism are shaped like rectangles. Some rectangular prisms have faces that are shaped like rectangles and squares. Explain to your children that a cube is a special kind of rectangular prism. Encourage your children to find examples of rectangular prisms and point out the different faces. Bulletin boards, cereal boxes, shoeboxes, and books are all rectangular prisms.

A pyramid is a solid figure that has a base, or bottom, and multiple triangular faces. The base of a pyramid can be different shapes, such as rectangles, squares, triangles, or octagons. The sides join at a single vertex. A square pyramid has a base, four sides, eight edges, and five vertices. Your children have most likely seen pictures of the Great Pyramids of Egypt. You may wish to draw triangular and rectangular pyramids for your children so they can see that the sides are always triangles no matter what shape the base is.

A cylinder is a solid shape that has two circular faces, no edges, and no vertices. A cylinder has a curved surface and is able to roll. Tuna cans, soup cans, poles, and pipes are all examples of cylinders. You may wish to show how a cylinder can be created by rolling up a rectangle into a tube and attaching two circles to the ends. Conversely, you can take a toilet paper tube and cut it down lengthwise to show that it can turn into a rectangle. Help your children understand that plane shapes can be manipulated to form solid shapes.

A cone is a solid shape that has one curved surface, no edges, and one vertex. Traffic cones, funnels, and ice cream cones are all examples of cones. You may want to draw different examples of cones so students can see how they can vary in dimensions.

A sphere is a solid figure familiar to all children. Balls, marbles, and oranges are all spheres. A sphere has no face, no edge, and no vertex. Spheres have a curved surface and are able to roll.

Studying shapes, both two-dimensional and three-dimensional, are fun ways for your children to explore the world around them. How do we use rectangular prisms everyday? What kind of shape do we drink out of? Encourage your children to find examples of solid shapes all around them and ask questions about how they use them. Would they rather play soccer using a ball or a box? Why?