A pattern is a set of shapes, objects, letters, or numbers that are repeated over and over. Children who pattern will be better prepared for school because it helps develop reading, math, and science skills. Young children need to be familiar with sorting and grouping before they are ready to pattern. They need experience sorting objects by attributes meaning same or different. They enjoy sorting objects into two hula hoops or into boxes. Use objects that are interesting to the child such as buttons, coins, pastas, cereals, leaves, rocks, shells, beads, cubes, crayons, nuts, clothes, shoes, towels, legos, plastic animals and action figures. You can make cards for patterning such as O, X, or draw shapes, or figures.

Sorting bears

After children understand sorting, they are ready for pattering. Objects can be patterned according to color, shape and size. Begin with observing simple patterns then move to more complex. Encourage children to make up patterns and praise them for their accomplishments.

Here are some examples:

  • Black/white as seen in a zebra
  • Red/blue/yellow. Have children glue strips of paper into circles forming links of the primary colors for a chain.
  • Body patterns: clap/stomp, clap/clap/point and jump/pat/turn.
  • Sound patterns by clapping in different sequences of fast and slow rhythms or using human and animal sounds: moo/meow/hoot

Children enjoy playing games to learn patterning such as “I Spy” or “Blue’s Clues.” To know if a child understands patterning, find out if they can:

  • Identify a pattern
  • Copy a pattern others have made
  • Extend a pattern others have started
  • Tell what is missing when part of a pattern is hidden

Patterning will help preschoolers prepare for kindergarten by developing the following skills:

  • Observation: Objects have different properties
  • Classifying: Sort objects
  • Problem solving and Prediction: What comes next?
  • Manipulation: Sequence of objects
  • Ordering: Making sense of pattern
  • Communication: Describe and express patterns building vocabulary. What shape, color, texture?
  • Counting: How many in pattern?
  • Measurement: Compare and contrast objects using terms as length, weight, size
  • Sensory/Motor Integration: How does it feel? Which is heavier?
  • Creativity and Discovery: Designing patterns
  • Exploration: Objects can be ordered, measured, counted, manipulated, investigated, and patterned
  • Spatial Relations: Discuss relations such as in front of, behind, above, below, left-right which helps children navigate around their world. Reading is from left-to-right and from top-to-bottom.
  • Recording: Chart a pattern such as apples: how many are green, red, yellow?
  • Connection to environment: Patterns can be observed in nature.

Children learn to recognize, create, copy and extend patterns through repeated daily activities. In Kindergarten children will observe patterns such as the days of the week, months of the year, and the four seasons. They will use their patterning skills to help them learn to read by knowing objects follow in sequence. They will build math concepts by knowing how objects can be ordered, and understand science by observing how things are connected.

By Susan CaseSusan has earned a Masters in Family and Child Development and formerly taught Early Childhood, Special Education and Kindergarten. She is the author of Kindergarten: Tattle-Tales, Tools, Tactics, Triumphs and Tasty Treats for Teachers and Parents. You can visit her blog at Kindergarten for Teachers and Parents.

What are your patterning activities and ideas?