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Cookie Cutter

Hone your spatial skills by tracing shapes on a piece of paper. Whoever fits the last shape wins.

Ages: 4+ (with help)
Players: 2
Time: 10-20 Minutes
Type: shape games
Location: tabletop
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Ages: 4+ (with help)
Players: 2
Time: 10-20 Minutes
Type: shape games
Location: tabletop

Instructions

Cut any shape from cardboard. (Cereal box cardboard works well because it's thin enough to cut easily but thick enough to hold up when tracing.) Your shape should be a bit bigger than a playing card. Ideally, it will fit on a piece of paper about 5-8 times. Here are some ideas for shapes:

Cardboard shapes covering a piece of paper
Try a variety of shapes.

Then, take turns tracing the shape on a piece of paper. Using different colors is fun, but not necessary.

Tracing a shape on the piece of paper

Shapes aren't allowed to overlap each other, or go over the edge of the paper. If you can't see white all around the shape before tracing, it's too close to another shape or the edge of the paper.

The shape is traced on the piece of paper

The player who fits the last shape wins!

Don't forget: it's Beast Academy Playground, not Beast Academy Study Hall. Change the rules, be silly, make mistakes, and try again. The Variations and Learning Notes are here for you if you want to dive deeper, but not all of them apply to learners of every age. The most important thing is to have fun.

This game adapted from "Passform" by Walter Joris.

Variations d

Familiar Shapes:

Use a triangle, circle, square, pentagon, trapezoid, etc, for your shape. Be sure to name the shape and talk about it: "Now let's try a triangle with 3 sides that are all different!"

Obstacles:

Draw a line coming in part way from the side of the paper. Shapes aren't allowed to overlap with the line. Or, cut the paper into a shape itself. Remember, ideally your shape will fit around 5-8 times on the piece of paper. If it fits more than that, the game can be tedious for young tracers.

Cut pieces of paper with a line drawn

Roll Out the Dough:

Instead of paper and cardboard, use cookie cutters to cut out shapes from actual cookie dough (or use play dough)!

Symmetry Showdown:

Choose a shape that is asymmetrical. Then, Player 1 traces the shape brown-side-up, and Player 2 traces the shape color-side-up. (Or, if you aren't using a cereal box, write each player's name on their side of the shape.)

A shape pointing left
A shape pointing right

Solitaire Puzzles:

Pick your favorite shape, and then see how many times you can fit it on a single page. Try again and see if you can fit even more. Or, try to trace the shape the fewest number of times so that it can't be traced on the paper any more without overlapping.

Classroom Tips d

Cookie Cutter can be played when learning basic shapes, or more advanced vocabulary about shapes (e.g. sides, vertices, convex, concave, regular). Let pairs cut out their own shapes, but give some restrictions: "Your shape has to be a triangle," or "Your shape must be concave."

Discussion Questions

  • What words can you use to describe your shape?
  • What words can you use to compare two different shapes?
  • Is your shape a polygon?
  • Is it better to play first or second? Or does it depend on the shape and paper?
  • Should you try to place your first shape in the middle, near an edge, or does it not matter?
  • What makes a shape symmetrical? (see Learning Notes)
  • What objects can you think of that have symmetry? (see Learning Notes)
  • What's the fewest number of times your shape can fit onto the page, without room for another trace? (see Variations)

Alignment with Beast Academy Curriculum

  • Level 3, Chapter 1: Shapes
  • Level 4, Chapter 1: Shapes

See Variations and Learning Notes for more ideas on how to adapt this activity and incorporate it into your classroom.

Learning Notes d

Symmetry:

Play the Symmetry Showdown variation. Notice that the two sides of this shape are mirror images of each other. To see this better, fold a paper in half, then trace the shape on either side of the paper, so that the middle fold acts as a "mirror," and the shapes are reflections of each other on either side of the fold.

Mirror reflection of a shape

You can check to see if you got the shape oriented right by tracing in a dark color, then folding the paper in half and holding it up to the light. How closely do the shapes overlap?

Strategy:

A classic math anecdote involves the following game: Take turns placing pennies on a square table. Whoever can place the last coin wins. Player 1 can guarantee a win by placing the first penny in the exact center of the table. Then, wherever Player 2 places a penny on the table, Player 1 responds by placing a penny at the point on the exact opposite side across the initial center penny. On every turn, this "exact opposite" spot will always correspond to the place Player 2 put their penny, and so there will always be an opening for Player 1, until the table is full and Player 2 loses. (Of course, this strategy works better in theory than it would in practice. It would be very difficult to always put a penny at the exact opposite point. See our game Carronade to try something similar!)

Such a strategy wouldn't be useful for Cookie Cutter (unless your shape were something like a circle) but there are some choices that players can make to thwart their opponents. When there is room for 2 or 3 more shapes on the paper, ask your child how many more times they think the shape will fit. Whatever their answer, ask them to figure out who would win if their guess is correct. Their answers to these questions can affect their next move.

For example, if they guess 2 more shapes can fit, and it is their turn to trace next, let them figure out that they will be able to draw one more shape, and then their opponent will draw the last shape to win. In such a situation, it would be best for them to try to draw their shape in the middle of the remaining space, in such a way that their opponent will not have room for another tracing.

Tiling the Plane:

Some shapes fit together more snugly than others. If you play Cookie Cutter with any triangle or quadrilateral (4-sided shape), ask your child to try to trace the shape on the paper as closely as possible. Let them discover that these shapes actually fit perfectly together, like tiles on a kitchen floor. When shapes fit together precisely, with no space between, and can cover an entire piece of paper (no matter how big), this is called "tiling the plane." (A "plane" is the math term for a flat 2-dimensional surface, like a piece of paper.) What other shapes tile the plane?

Papers tiled by triangles and quadrilaterals
On the left, a triangle tiling the plane. On the right, a quadrilateral.

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Materials
  • cardboard
  • scissors
  • paper
  • pencil
Learning Goals
  • spatial reasoning
  • shapes
  • strategic thinking
  • symmetry
Common Core Standards
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Ready to level up?

Keep problem solving with Beast Academy’s full math curriculum for students ages 7–13. Check out our captivating comic book series and immersive online platform.

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Bring problem-solving to your classroom

Keep your entire class engaged with a full book and online math curriculum, for students ages 7–13. 98% of teachers say they’re satisfied with Beast Academy.

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