One of our favourite math activities after learning shapes is playing with tangrams.
My first set of DIY tangrams were these Dinosaur Tangrams that I made for our Toddler Dinosaur unit – two years ago! Since then, we’ve made several different versions, but dinosaurs are always the first that I bring out.
Tangrams are geometric puzzles, silhouettes that are composed of different shapes, and they are just as fun to make as they are to figure out!
Making your own tangrams might sound like a daunting and complicated process, but it’s actually incredibly easy, and considering how difficult it can be to find tangram sets – especially ones that fit your specific brand of shape blocks – learning how to make your own can make it possible to incorporate these shape puzzles into every learning unit or interest your child has!
(Note, these are technically not “real tangrams” – tangrams are supposed to only use 7 pieces and are only made up of 4 trianges, 1 square, and 1 parallelagram. These are technically “pattern block puzzles” but tangrams is easier to search for and seems to be what others are calling theirs, too.)
Materials to Make DIY Tangrams
Of course, laminating is optional – but laminating our dinosaur sheets has allowed the colour to stay vibrant for two years and each sheet has been used dozens of times without any signs of wear.
How to Make DIY Tangrams
- Find a silhouette of the item that you want to make a tangram of – I used some dinosaur illustrations to guide me, but silhouettes would be better.
You may find it easier to print off or trace the silhouette to work on top of.
- Play around with the shapes. Try to fill out the silhouette with shapes; it doesn’t have to be perfect, but you want to fill it out as best as you can.
- Outline the blocks. For a first set of tangrams, I like to outline each individual block in a matching marker. When children advance, I outline each individual block with a black marker, and then finally, they just receive a silhouette of the final shape.
- Laminate your sheets.
Playing with tangrams is a great math activity in reinforcing children’s awareness of shapes, but it is also an exercise in abstract thinking. Children have to think creatively and strategically in placing their shapes, and then abstractly in interpreting what the shape represents.
Children also experience elasticity of thought, seeing the same shapes configured in multiple different ways.
This is important because it allows children to understand that math is flexible. While the shapes stay the same, the results when you combine them in different ways are incredibly different.
But the most important thing for me, is that tangrams teach and encourage all of this while still being fun!
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT:
Dinosaur Matching Puzzles Free Printable // Powerful Mothering
Dinosaur Playdough Kit // Mama. Papa. Bubba.
Dinosaur Counting Cards // The Kindergarten Connection
Dinosaur Matching // Coffee Cups and Crayons
Dinosaur Guessing Game // Play & Learn Everyday
Free Editable Dinosaur Name Plates // Fairy Poppins
Free Dinosaur Number Puzzles // Playdough to Plato
Dinosaur Egg Colour Matching // Teach Me Mommy
How to Stomp Out Dinosaur Sized // Sugar Aunts
Dinosaur Colours and Numbers Busy Bag // Adventures of Adam
Dinosaur Emergent Reader // The Kindergarten Connection
Free Dinosaur Subitizing Game // Fairy Poppins
Dinosaur Sensory Bottle // The Pleasantest Thing
Dinosaur Letter Tracing // Modern Preschool