Teaching patterns is a very important math skill for children, as they give them a good foundation for many arithmetic principles later on. Some of the essential building blocks they learn through making and completing patterns are odd and even numbers, skip counting, algebraic concepts, memory skills, and much more.
A child as young as 3 years old can begin learning basic pattern concepts, and there are many fun ways to teach her!
Here are 5 ways to teach your toddler basic pattern concepts.
1. Print, cut and paste
I found these great free printable pattern activities for toddlers (and preschoolers, kindergarten kids) from Kids Learning Station, and I printed them out for my daughter, and she loved them! She first cut out the shapes on the bottom, and then pasted them into the correct place on the pattern. Easy and fun activity!
2. Pattern stamping
Children love stamping, and there are so many neat ways you can use stamping in arts and crafts as well as in teaching! First we used our stamp markers to create and complete patterns, but then we took it a step further and made patterns using foam shapes dipped in paint. Boy, did she love that!
Of course, you can use anything that stamps–rubber stamps, stamp markers, leaves dipped in paint, etc. You could even use finger paints on sponges and her your child make color patterns from the paints.
Since my daughter is a toddler, I made the patterns first, and she continued them with the stamp markers. Needless to say, this was a winning pattern learning activity!
3. Sticker patterns
Cut out strips of paper and start the pattern with the stickers. We used the colored circle labels, as they were nice and bright, easy to take off, and there were plenty of them to make patterns with. Let your toddler or preschooler finish the pattern for as long as she wants!
4. Bead, colored cheerios, or pasta necklaces
This is a great activity, not only for creating beautiful patterns, but also for fine motor skills. Boys and girls both love this activity and almost any age can enjoy it! If you choose to use beads, make sure they are big and easy for little fingers to handle.
We have also used colored cheerios cereal to make patterned strings. These are easy to maneuver and of course have the added bonus of a fun snack afterwards!
Pasta makes great necklaces and chains as well. Our favorite are rigatoni, manicotti, ruote (cart wheels), penne and of course any type of macaroni. Painting them first makes them even more attractive for little eyes and the pasta necklaces come out just gorgeous!
Try using pipe cleaner instead of string to make it even easier for cute chubby hands. Check out the home made pasta bracelets my 2 youngest girls made last year–these were not patterned, but they were great fun and turned out lovely!
Also don’t give your toddler or preschool child too many to choose from. Two or three choices seems sufficient for young children.
5. Hands-on pattern making
My daughter loved this one. Again, as she is still a toddler, I either started the pattern, or made a line with the pattern on top that she could copy on the bottom. This seemed a lot easier for her and she had fun with it!
We chose fun things from around the house for our patterns! You can use anything–small toys with a lot of the same pieces such as legos, Mega blocks, wooden blocks, hanging monkeys, even spoons and forks!