How to Make and Teach with Bilingual Cardboard Shape Templates

A few years ago, I made bilingual shape templates from recycled cardboard!

The cardboard shape templates are still used by my children frequently, and they have been an easy way to expose my children to shape names in Chinese and English.

How to make bilingual cardboard shape templates

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Bilingual cardboard shape templates: an idea created from need

I made these bilingual cardboard shape templates when my daughter was 3 years old.

When we misplaced our store-bought shape stencils, my daughter was frustrated that she could not draw perfect shapes for her drawings.

In a pinch, I grabbed a piece of cardboard and cut out some shapes for her.

Then I realized that the blank cardboard pieces had a precious spot for labeling the names of the shapes!

Since I speak both Chinese and English with my children, I made 2 sets of each shape: one set of Chinese names, another set in English. 

Related: Raising Multilingual Children as a Non-Fluent Parent: 7 Lessons Learned

Encourage the minority language through print exposure

If your kids are reluctant readers, don’t worry because they will read when they are ready!

In the meantime, you can provide a print-rich environment in many ways.

For example, these DIY shape stencils can gradually teach kids English and Chinese words, because kids will see the text over and over again!

While drawing and tracing, your child is naturally engaging with the text since the holding the stencil in place requires eye-hand coordination!

They might not remember them right away, but over time, the shape words will become familiar with frequent exposure.

Related: How I Taught My Child 1000+ Chinese Characters as a Non-Fluent Speaker

How to make bilingual cardboard shape templates

Important vocabulary: shape names in Chinese and English

  • 形状 / 形狀 (xíngzhuàng / shapes)
  • 圆形 / 圓形 (yuán xíng circle)
  • 三角形 (sānjiǎoxíng / triangle)
  • 正方形 (zhèngfāngxíng / square)
  • 长方形 / 長方形 (chángfāngxíng / rectangle)
  • 心形 (xīn xíng / heart)
  • 星形 (xīng xíng / star)
  • 菱形 (língxíng / diamond)

Bilingual cardboard shape stencils: What you need

  1. Cardboard
  2. Sharpie marker
  3. Shape template (feels kind of silly to use a template to DIY your own, but it’ll be easier that drawing them freehand like what I had to do!)
  4. Scissors

Learning Resources Shape Templates

Bilingual shape templates: how to make them

  1. Draw shapes on cardboard
  2. Cut shapes
  3. Label shapes with their names.
  4. Use the stencils to trace/draw
  5. Suggest creating 2 sets so that you can also turn it into a matching game!
Tracing circle shape template onto cardboard

I showed my daughter how to trace the first shape at the corner of the cardboard.

By starting from the corner, we can maximize the cardboard piece and create more shapes!

Tips for teaching with cardboard shape stencils

  • Use the same color for each label for uniformity.  Labels that are too colorful are distracting from the goal of recognizing the shape and their name.
  • Make sure each cardboard shape is the same color.  This allows the child to visually focus on discriminating the shapes.
  • Show your child how to feel the edges of shapes.  Discuss which shapes have pointy corners, how many sides, etc.

Related: Create a Print-Rich Environment with Labels that Promote Literacy

Bilingual shape templates: candid photos

Here is a photo of my daughter when she was 3 years old.  At this age, she had a lot of fun tracing all of the cardboard shape templates!

Child using bilingual cardboard triangle shape template

Through frequent print exposure, she easily learned how to read Chinese and English shape names.

Child tracing bilingual circle shape template

If you make bilingual shape stencils, let us know!  Please leave a comment below.

Learn shape names with cardboard shape templates

Tips on creating a bilingual learning environment at home

Happy learning, friends!

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