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Making Geometric Shapes

I received an email from a parent asking how she could best make a set of Geometric Shapes similar to those in the Montessori Geometric Cabinet. This material costs well over $100; and is actually overkill for one child’s use at home. This parent wanted to teach her child the names of the shapes, but also needed shapes that could be used for tracing and that were thick enough to run two fingers along the edge to feel each shape, as is done in Montessori classrooms. I decided to make a set that would meet those needs.


Materials: Photo  / paper mounting spray glue, straight blade shears (heavy duty scissors), 14 ply white illustration board (heavier than poster board, get at an arts & crafts or some office supply stores), wooden knobs (crafts store), and a set of geometric shapes printed on colors of Astrobright card Stock (buy by the sheet at an office supply) using the printouts in Montessori At Home! You will also need some contact cement & a sheet of 400 grit wet / dry sandpaper.





I took the board outside and sprayed an even coating of glue over it. I attached each sheet by laying down one end and carefully rolling the sheet into the glue, sweeping my hand along the page to eliminate any air bubbles. This wasn’t hard since it was paper. I then worked over each sheet, rubbing with my fingers to make sure each was fully glued down. Let dry.









Using the shears – necessary for cutting illustration board (and you will find many uses for a pair) – I rough cut out each shape, ready for trimming.




Here are the shapes, cut out very carefully right along the lines with the shears. this is not hard on the straight sided shapes. It requires a slow & careful approach with the curved shapes, but again isn’t all that hard. Hey, If I can do it……..







Using a drop or two of contact cement, I attached the knob handles. If your printouts have the shape names on them, just offset the knob to one side or the other.Take a sheet of 400 grit wet or dry sandpaper (the black sheets) and lightly sand all the edges. This makes nice smooth edges.





All the shapes, placed in an $.80 white plastic tray from Walmart. You could use a nicer tray or box. I always go for the cheapest method that looks good!



The knobs create a pincer grasp practice opportunity. Tracing objects is wonderful practice for writing. As pictured in Montessori At Home!, many objects work for tracing practice. Arts & crafts stores have all kinds of wooden crafts shapes you can glue knobs onto and let your child trace. Box & jar lids, coasters, a protractor – many things work in addition to geometric shapes.

You could make a set of these shapes in highly contrasting light and dark colors, or black & white, and create an infant Mobile, attaching the knobs on the back & attaching the string (duct tape, of course) to each at a spot on the knob where it will hang at an angle into the baby’s direct line of sight, about 18 inches above the baby.

Be sure to introduce all the shape names using Three Step Lessons. In the new edition of Montessori At Home! the names are on each shape. You can also make name cards using index cards and a black marker.

© 2011 John Bowman




  • Montessori Print Shop

    Great post! I have people asking this question all the time – now I can direct them to this post. Thanks John!

  • Bess

    Thank you for this post! I actually did purchase the geometric cabinet at home (is it still overkill if you have 3+ kids… ha!). However, I did not purchase the botany cabinet. We’re really starting to dig into this topic. Obviously, it’s a lot of curved shapes so I’ll have be patient but I think this would work perfectly. I wasn’t sure how I was going to approach our leaf work since so many of the presentations use it.

    • John

      Hi Bess, thanks for responding. Sounds like you are a very active Home Teaching Parent – good on ya! I’m sure your kids love their Geo Cabinet. Like all Montessori materials, you can recover probably half of its cost on Ebay or Craigslist down the road. The Botany Cabinet doesn’t cost quite as much, so if you can afford it and it stimulates leaf explorations and science activities, it can work for you as well. You could certainly make many of the shapes very easily the way I described. It will boil down to time vs money and how well you think homemade shapes will hold up to 3 +, rather than one child. If I was a kid, I’d love to have both cabinets at home! My focus with Montessori At Home! is to always look for less expensive options; you’ll have to choose what works for you. And again – congratulations for being so proactive with your children’s early education!

  • Wally

    Thanks a lot!! great idea!! Also can make a base with a thick cardboard to insert the figures!

  • Deb @ Living Montessori Now

    Great idea, John! I’m always looking for DIY alternatives to pass on to parents. Looks like I’ll need to do a geometric shapes post before too long! :)

  • Pingback: Montessori Monday – DIY Geometric Shapes | LivingMontessoriNow.com

  • Cat

    Hi John,

    I printed the shapes from your book last night, and just wanted to let you know that some of the shape names differ from the US in the UK and also Australia. e.g. the terms ‘trapezoid’ and ‘trapezium’ are reversed, and a ‘right triangle’ becomes a ‘right-angled triangle’.

    I absolutely love the book! There must be countless times I’ve spent a long time looking stuff up on the web, only to open your book later and find it all there and very easy to follow. Thanks for all the effort you’ve put in!

  • Priya

    Was looking for this.. Great post! Thanks!

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