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Foam Shape Puzzles

Sweet Pea is 45 months old.

From: The Activity Mom blogged about these cute foam shape puzzles and Walking by the Way did a slightly easier version of them.


  • Self-adhesive foam shapes (or non-adhesive shapes and glue).
  • 2 or 3 sheets of card stock or heavy paper.
  • Scissors.
  • Sharpie.
  • Basket or bowl to contain the shapes.



  • Cut each sheet of card stock into 4 rectangles.
  • Draw a line down the center of each rectangle with the Sharpie.

  • Separate the foam shapes into 2 matching piles.

  • Select a few of the shapes from one pile and use them to create a picture.   Remove the backing and stick the shapes down on the left side of one of your paper rectangles.  Remove the exact same shapes from the matching pile and place them in the basket for your tot to use later.
  • Repeat with the remaining shapes and paper to make several puzzle cards with a different picture on each one.

  • Show your tot the puzzle cards and the basket of foam shapes.
  • Allow your tot to choose a puzzle card and inform her that you are going to examine the picture on the left and then try to recreate it on the right side of the paper.
  • Say something like, “What shapes are used to make this picture?  I think I need a yellow rectangle.”   Invite your tot to find the correct shape in the basket.  Continue looking for shapes until you have selected all of them that your tot will need to create the picture.
  • Allow your tot to try to build the picture.

  • Repeat with the remaining cards.

Observations: This went over better than our foam shape patterns activity.  Sweet Pea did 1 of the cards right away and has chosen to work on them a few times since then.  Oddly, she has only been interested in doing 1 at a time before moving on to something else.  I had expected her to do them all at once.

Sweet Pea seemed to enjoy this activity, but I was surprised by how much trouble she has had with some of the puzzles.  I thought these would be a little too easy for her, but I ended up wishing I would have created some simpler cards.  I think the 3-dimensional aspect of the puzzle (i.e. having to stack some of the shapes on top of other ones) provided more of a challenge than I anticipated.

I really like that this activity can be changed to suit your tot’s age and ability.  It is easy to put together and a good exercise in logical thinking.  I would recommend it for other tots.

Notes from the Trenches: The puzzle cards can be reused if you prevent your tot from sticking the foam shapes down.   Alas, Sweet Pea loves stickers so if we want to do more, I’ll have to make them.

Rating: 3 Stars * (Fun, Easy, Independent)


Foam Shape Patterns

Sweet Pea is 45 months old.

From: I was inspired by pictures of Foam Shape Puzzles and a Mystery Pattern Blocks game in Erica’s Logical Thinking post at ABC and 123.  I thought that the cheap foam shapes would be perfect for a patterning activity.



  • Cut each piece of paper into 4 strips.
  • Take several handfuls of shapes and separate them by color and/or shape.

  • Lay foam shapes across one of the paper strips in a pattern.    Make sure you have enough shapes to cover the entire strip of paper.
  • Stick the first half of the foam shapes to the strip.  Remove the remaining foam shapes to a basket.
  • Repeat with the remaining foam shapes and paper strips.  Use a variety of patterns (ABAB, AABAAB, ABCABC, etc) depending on your tot’s age.

  • Present your tot with one of the pattern strips and the basket of foam shapes.
  • Explain that you want your tot to complete the pattern.  Say something like, “This pattern has an orange square, then a blue square, then orange, then blue.  What do  you think comes next?”
  • When your tot gives the correct answer, invite her to search the basket for the correct shape and allow her to place it in the correct place on the strip.

  • When your tot reaches the end of the strip, congratulate her on finishing and ask if she would like to choose the next pattern.
  • Repeat until your tot is ready to quit or you run out of strips.

Observations: I had high hopes for this activity, and it started well, but Sweet Pea quickly grew tired of it.    She did 2 strips with an ABAB pattern without help and then said she was done.  She had more fun trying to wear the strips than creating them.

I thought maybe the ABAB patterns were just too easy for her, so I asked her if she wanted to try a harder one.  I showed her the most complicated pattern I had created, but it seemed to be _too_ hard.  She only finished it by asking me, “Which piece goes next?” a couple of times.  After we were done, she announced that she wanted to do something else.

I wouldn’t call this a disaster, but it certainly didn’t hold her attention for more than a few minutes.  I can’t figure out why this activity didn’t go well for us.   Maybe I will try the more complicated strips again in a few weeks.

I would recommend this activity if you have a bunch of extra foam shapes around or if your tot is especially interested in patterning.

Notes from the Trenches: Creating the pattern strips was much harder than I thought it would be.  The tub of shapes I bought seemed to be full of  yellow squares and rectangles, but not much else.  I had trouble finding enough different shapes and colors to start my pattern while reserving enough for her to complete it.  Make sure you have all the shapes you need to do an entire strip before you actually start sticking the pieces down!

I tried to set this activity up so that it could be reused.  I stuck half the foam shapes down and Sweet Pea was supposed to just place the rest of the foam pieces along the strip in the correct place. However, as soon as she realized that the first few shapes were stuck to the paper, she wanted to know how she could get her shapes to stick too.  I told her that they were not sticky and she was just supposed to lay them on the paper.  She contemplated the problem briefly and then said, “I need glue.”  I gave up on trying to dissuade her  and just showed her how to peel off the backing.  At least that is good fine motor control, right?

Rating: 1 Stars * (Independent)

Carnivals: This post is linked to Delicious Ambiguity’s Tot Tuesday #40 and One Hook Wonder’s Montessori Monday.  Visit these site to see some other great ideas for your tots.



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Snowflake Counting with Milk Cap Numbers
Scrap Paper Collage
Scrap Paper Collage


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