Construct Shapes

Practice & Invent Shapes
Built EnvironmentStarter


Learning to print shapes opens up the world of geometry and construction.  Explorers of any age develop their own strategies and gain respect for the ideas of their peers when they work together to explore multiple solutions to the problem of how to use a line stamp to create a shape.

Three year-olds print shapes.


Ask children to be shape detectives by looking around them to see what shapes they can find. Identify squares, rectangles, triangles, circles

You might also have pictures (where shapes are clearly seen) available for discovering shapes.

You Might Ask:

How might you make these shapes with the straight-line tool? 

Pretending your hand is a straight- line tool, can you show me how you might make some of these shapes?


Show the straight line printing tool, review how to hold it.

Discuss how the process of printing gives you the ability to make more than one of the same thing – in this case – a line!

Any time you begin printing, it helps to practice first without paint*. Demonstrate using the line stamp to print  a shape, taking time to figure out the placement of each line. You might ask the children to help.  Let them know they will begin by doing a little practicing and planning when they get to their work spaces.

Then dip your line stamp into paint, carefully lifting the stamp, and press it onto paper to create a line.  Continue printing  lines until you have a shape.  Follow the children’s suggestions for where to go next as you construct a shape. Suggest that one dip into the paint may be enough to print several lines.

Review guidelines for resting the line stamp on the side of your tray – paint side down when you need to stop. Show how easy it is to pick the line stamp up without getting paint on your hands!

*A few moments spent practicing without actually printing can save a lot of time, paper, and frustration! It helps children focus and try out possibilities so that they are ready to begin when they get their trays of paint.

The children in the image below looked at the line structure of butterfly and dragonfly wings before they began working together to create giant wings for their flying cart.


Using only the large straight line tool (but no paint!) have students practice printing shapes. When you see that children get the idea, hand out trays of paint for printing.

Reinforce the idea of  trying more than one shape.

Remind students to print connecting lines and notice what happens.

If students are working as a group, help them to be respectful of the work of classmates  by setting guidelines, such as respecting the work of their classmates, and asking before connecting to a neighbor’s prints.

Remind children to look for the open spaces on their papers for additional printing.

Share & Reflect

Plan time to look at and share students explorations. Appreciate and discuss different ways of constructing shapes. Looking back at  explorations with classmates and a teacher can offer a new perspective on one’s work and can lead to many discoveries. It also opens up possibilities for what to try next!


Ari, age 4.5 prints many papers with horizontal and vertical lines. When he sees his brother print a W and some triangles, he adds triangles to his work and discovers, to his delight, that he has printed a rocket ship. He carefully paints his rocket with watercolors when he returns the next day.

Variations & Extensions