3D Shape Activities To Get Back Your “Mommy” Time - Play Discover Learn 24/7

3D Shape Activities To Get Back Your “Mommy” Time

Daily these cute DIY math manipulatives for 3D Shapes, counting and pattern-making fill my Facebook page. Once upon a time, I loved these posts.

It was the day that I started to sit down and do these DIYs that I had a revelation. Those nicely edited videos and posts are just that, EDITED. Removed from all these adorable DIYs are the not so glamourous moments.

You may know what I am talking about. You begin to do exactly like the video says, but things never turn out the same way. With each attempt to obtain the "pinterest" perfect result, your frustration mounts. 

And then, of course, those “common” household items that make this a "free" DIY, turns into a $20 run to the store.

Then there is the cutting, the pasting, and the printing. All this prep, happens the night before to ensure this activity goes off without a hitch the next day. Yes, that designated "mommy" time has been confiscated by this cute DIY.

Oh, my favorite activities are the food ones. I end up with kids so distracted by eating that before we can get to the point of the activity, it’s been half eaten. Are we repeating this activity any time soon? Not without another $20 trip to the store.

So, let’s stop and do the math, Moms. $20 run to the store (gas, supplies, and impulse buys<<<yeah, you know it).   (Please do buy local or from small online business.  Let's support real incomes that make a real difference)

This is an open and shut case. So, next time, you see one of the cute, math manipulative DIYs envision the actual cost. Ask yourself, “Can I just buy this math manipulative?” Cuz, guys,it is time to take back our “Mommy” time and have a glass of wine and read a good book.

Say NO to the 3D Marshmallow Shapes

3d shapes

Okay, there is more than one reason to invest in math manipulatives and today, I am going to share with you a fun 3D shape building math manipulative we have been playing with lately.

It was the marshmallow and toothpick 3D building activities that inspired this buy and my rant. I am just not buying marshmallows for a plethora of reasons, and I saw the clay options. No thank you. There is a reason play dough has been banned in my house. (Don’t cry, Artsy Moms, there is clay outside).  It is just not cute getting kids to think math with marshmallows in hand. 


I prefer an activity that comes organized in a box that the kids can open and play without me, and that is what Dive into Shapes “Sea” and Build Geometry set does for me.

3d shape building

This 129-piece set comes with enough connectors, sticks and curves for three children to have fun creating an octopus, a house, a hat and more. My kids couldn't wait to get their hands on it. Immediately, they started creating all on their own, too busy for instructions, and this free play is important.

We often want to start a new activity with very specific instructions in fear that our lesson objective for the activity will get lost. This is where we dampen the child's confidence in their own curiosity.

When we start with free play, we are communicating that their own interests are important and filled with valuable learning opportunities. Always start with free play.

Discovering 3D Shapes

3d shape activities

There are 15 double-sided task cards that I LOVE. I love that these task cards are simple. They provide the items needed for the build and a picture of the build. This forces the child to examine closely how to build the shape.

Want to see your child’s eyes glaze over? Just give them written step-by-step wordy instructions.

In the process of building what they see, the child becomes aware of the nuances of each shape. You don’t have to teach them about how many vertices are in a cube. Instead, the child sees it for themselves. You can tell the child what we call a vertex, but you don’t have to define it for them.

Learning about Curved 3D Shapes

You know what toothpicks can’t do? Make curved 3D shapes. Sure you are all excited by this simple DIY, but why stop at straight edges?

We live in a world with more curved surfaces than straight. Curves matter.  Children should play and manipulate curved objects.  It is a rare thing to find a manipulative that offers opportunity to work with curves.  Albeit, the curves aren't completely versatile, but the choices we have in this straight driven world are few. 

Constraints that Push Thinking

Here is another reason why I love these simple task cards, constraints. These task cards have questions like, “Can we shorten the height of the shape?” This simple constraint pushes student’s thinking.

Students get beyond just following instructions and start to become aware of how different properties impact the shape, like the length of a side.  These questions cause the child to start tinkering to find out if they can answer the question.

We are moving passed the information age into the innovation age. The ability to tinker is not going to determine your success or failure. It is going to determine if you even obtain a decent job.

Questions that move us to tinker and manipulate are going to cultivate a mind that thinks and innovates by habit. Our curriculum and daily routines should be filled with questions like

  • Can we do this...?
  • How can we?
  • What if we?
  • I wonder what would happen?
  • Is there another way?
  • Where else can we apply this?
  • How could we remake this?
  • Which one doesn't belong?

When looking for a math manipulative, you should be asking yourself, is there opportunity for freedom of self-expression? Does it encourage tinkering? Is there opportunity for wonder? But most importantly, is this going to take over my “Mommy time?”

Here is to more “Mommy time” filled with wine and good books.

Lacy | Play Discover Learn 24/7

Knowing the best kind of learning comes from a highly motivated internal drive, Lacy Coker cultivates tools and resources that help to make learning for young children playful and self-directed.

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