A fun printable tangram activity for kids, these Tangram Puzzles encourage kids to think creatively while visual-spatial skills, math skills and math vocabulary.
Tangram Puzzles for Kids
Have you heard of tangrams?
I first learned about them a few years ago and they have been a staple in our daycare’s math corner ever since!
Tangrams are two-dimensional Chinese puzzles that rely on a seven (tan) geometric shapes that are cut out of a square. These shapes can be re-arranged to form different shapes or structures, often with a suggested shadow image as a guide.
The seven shapes of a tangram are:
- 2 large right-angled triangles
- 1 medium right-angled triangle
- 2 small right-angled triangles
- 1 small square
- 1 parallelogram (sometimes called a rhombus, rhomboid or rhomb)
Benefits of Tangram Puzzles
Tangram puzzles offer many of the same benefits of building blocks. They encourage kids to stretch their understandings of visual-spatial relationships to figure out how the individual shapes can work together to form a new shape. They start looking at the shapes as not fixed, but possible to be interacted with in a variety of angles and perspectives.
During this problem-solving process, kids can learn the names of the different geometric shapes and become more familiar with them.
These puzzles are also great for sharpening fine motor skills, which are essential for not only gripping a pencil (the beginning of writing readiness) but also everyday life skills.
Tangrams can be played with independently, but they are also great for cooperative learning. Kids can problem solve together to figure out the puzzles.
Today’s printable gives you four sets of tangrams as well as eight “suggestion” puzzles to get kids started: a butterfly and a fish, numbers four and one, a shoe and a plane, and a figure doing a handstand and running.
These different categories of puzzles lets kids see the variety of options available for their tangrams, which they can then build on to create their own puzzle possibilities.
Tip: I like to laminate our printables so we can use them multiple times. This is the laminator I use, and I just buy the super cheap packages of laminate sheets from Amazon. It costs about 13 cents a sheet to laminate which lets us get so much use out of any activity we print out.
While the edges of the laminate do prevent the shapes from fitting together perfectly, we are able to still build our shapes and we get so much use out of the puzzles. Alternatively, you can print on cardstock for somewhat sturdy tangrams (they may need to be re-printed after a few uses if the edges tear) or you can grab wooden tangram blocks. (We also own these magnetic ones which you can see in use in our Dinosaur Tangrams post.)
Materials Needed for Tangram Puzzles
Download and print the activity pack on white paper or card stock. Laminate, if desired.
Also, for an added challenge, print one set of the “tangram puzzles” in just black ink. I’ll describe why below.
How to Use These Tangram Puzzles
Kids can play with their tangram shapes to create their own unique shape puzzles, but I think it’s easiest to start off with using pre-designed puzzles for them to get a sense of the possibilities and how the puzzles work.
(Again, they can work independently or with a partner.)
Using the colored puzzles, kids can replicate the image that they see and watch as their individual shapes come to live as a new shape/structure.
Using blacked-out puzzles, kids have to experiment more to figure out how to build a shape using their tangram pieces. They can then use the colored puzzles to check their work – like an answer key.
(Note: my printer was not being cooperative and printed my puzzles in gray-scale – you want just black and white to achieve the black out effect. If your printer also does this, you can go over the shape with a black marker to hide the shape breakdown.)
Don’t forget to grab your FREE Printable Tangrams.
Check out some of our other …, Pancake Flipping Math Activity inspired by If You Give a Pig a Pancake or Domino Math for Kids (with free printable).