New Year’s Resolution: PATTERNS Grow Thinking

Whether you do this resolution for just a few days or longer, patterns grow thinking. When we either look for patterns or make them, brains get a workout. Sometimes, bodies too.

patterning skills

Patterns can be pictures, sounds, words or other information that repeat in the same order. Songs each have a unique pattern. Every language will have particular ones too. Patterns can also be found in nature. This is a simple one: black/white, black/white.

patterns grow thinking

Do you remember how exciting it was as a child to discover a shortcut? Actually, as adults it’s still a great feeling to find one. Well, that happens when the brain finds a pattern. A pattern is like a short-cut to figuring out information. Suddenly, instead of having to loop around, up, down, in and out, the brain hops onto the pattern-shortcut and can skip to the end.

Following, is part of some play time with train blocks. Little Sister and I have fun with patterns. The pattern makes the job easier. Being able to notice, figure out and make patterns is a powerful thinking strategy for kindergarten readiness and beyond.

making patterns with transportation toysWhen a 3-year old was playing trains, I lined up a few cars in a simple pattern: red-blue, red-blue. I said each color and pointed to the cars. I spoke to the train cars and told them they were making a pattern, first red then blue, then red and blue again. Then  I asked the child what color would come next and together we figured out a red one. The child was able to say blue would come after that but then playing changed to putting blocks on the cars.

Noticing and making patterns are skills that grow from experience and practice. One of children’s earliest experiences with patterns is learning how to crawl. First one hand and knee move, and then the others, over and over. Faces have a pattern, with two eyes on top and a nose in the middle. Parents and caregivers find life a lot easier when babies settle into a pattern of day and night.

Kids are able to accurately say what comes next in a pattern string before they create their own patterns. Some ways to include patterns in a day could be walking along in a pattern, such as walk, walk, walk, walk, jump. Discover patterns on clothes when helping kids get dressed; a shirt may have stripes in the same order. Find patterns inside on walls and floors. Look for some in nature too. Make a pattern at snack time on a plate and eat it up; slice of banana/slice of strawberry, slice of banana/slice of strawberry. Read a book with parts of the story repeated, like The Gingerbread Man. Talk a pattern outloud. For instance, when setting the table say plate/bowl/spoon, plate/bowl/spoon. You can get mixed up and say fork. Kids love to correct grownup mistakes.

math patterns

Patterns grow thinking in other ways too. Sing lots of songs. The Wheels on the Bus has a different character or part of the bus each time but the same pattern. Make patterns when playing with toys. Color some with art tools. Together, you’ll be able to notice and make other patterns.

math and art for kids

Patterns grow thinking strategies and skills. Just in case you think they are not important, stock traders invest time and money into predicting trends and businesses investigate patterns constantly. Patterns are powerful; can you and your child play with some today?



Fall Patterning Math Activities and Play for Young Children

The seasons follow a pattern, our days follow a pattern, our bodies and brains do too, so our play of the day is fall patterning math activities for kids.

fall math patterning activities

Please don’t let the word math scare you away or cause any anxiety. There are no numbers to multiply or divide or problems to solve. This could be called fall patterning art activity. Either way it involves being creative and predictable at the same time.

We found some plastic fall leaves, acorns, and pumpkins at a dollar store. They were small enough for little hands and colorful enough to be interesting. First, I began a very simple, basic pattern: red leaf/gold leaf, red leaf/gold leaf. I showed Little Sister what I was doing. Of course, she wanted to do it too. She kept adding to the pattern all across the counter and then down. In math, this is called an AB pattern.

fall math patterning activitiesWhen that pattern was done, I tried one more complicated using pairs: two pumpkins/two acorns, two pumpkins/two acorns. This is an AABB sequence, quite a bit more complicated. Little Sister looked at it but said it wasn’t a pattern. Her mind could see the simple one but wasn’t yet ready for something harder.

Why is noticing and making patterns an important skill? Patterns reduce the burden of information from enormous amounts to chunks. If you look at the photo above of the leaves, instead of remembering the color and placement of 24 leaves, Little Sister only had to remember 2. Once she had red leaf followed by gold leaf she knew all of the others. Math certainly has patterns, but so does language. Music is based on patterns and so is art. In the grownup world, the economy follows a seasonal pattern and business people examine information in detail looking for patterns.

cinc o de mayo for kids

You don’t need leaves, plastic or real for fall patterning math activities. Patterns can be made with anything, like forks and spoons when unloading the dishes, or with toys. Block/car, block/car, could be an AB pattern sequence or blue/green/pink, blue/green/pink made with shapes. Kids may do this on their own and they are often quicker to see a pattern than adults. Another word for a pattern sequence is a routine. Is play part of the pattern of your child’s day?

#12 Making Patterns with Transportation Toys

When cars, trucks, trains and other toys are spread out on the floor one way to extend children’s play is making patterns with transportation toys.

making patterns with transportation toys

Little Sister was playing with her Duplo train and blocks. As she played, I lined up a few cars in a simple pattern of red/blue, red/blue and put some other red and blue ones close by. Instead of interrupting her, I talked to the train cars and said, “Hello train. Did you see I put some cars in a pattern? They go red, blue, red, blue. It’s just the same.” I asked Little Sister what color of car would come next and said the color names while pointing to the cars. Together we figured out a red car would come next. She was able to say blue would come after the red one by herself.

Why is making patterns important? The amount of information coming at the brain can be overwhelming. One way to reduce this overload is by noticing and using patterns. Instead of remembering the colors of 5 train cars in a row, the information can be condensed to red and blue. Because a pattern is repeated, that row of train cars could be expanded to dozens of them and still only two words are needed.

Kids won’t understand patterns the first few times you do this. They need lots of experiences in order to figure out how patterns work. Once they have the idea,  they can make more complicated patterns. An example of that might be car/car/truck, car/car/truck.

Patterning is a powerful brain strategy. In the article How Learning Patterns Leads to Brighter Children, Matt Powers states: “Out of all mental skills, pattern recognition is said to have the highest correlation with general intelligence.” He explains how patterns also help social skills. Kids use patterning skills to predict behavior and respond to others.

Making patterns with transportation toys is a play activity that gives a turbocharge to thinking. What’s the pattern of play at your house?

Bubble Activities #22: Bubble Wrap Math Patterns

Since we had out both the paints and the bubble wrap, we did some more painting and using different colors created bubble wrap math patterns.   Using 2 scrap blocks of wood about the size of Duplo blocks, I covered these with bubble wrap and stuck a push pin in to hold it together. Little … Continue reading Bubble Activities #22: Bubble Wrap Math Patterns

Star Wars Math Counting and Patterning

Children’s play counts when it comes to early learning and development so an idea for a play-of-the-day is Star Wars math  counting and patterning. Not having Star Wars characters and toys isn’t even a problem. We have a few but not enough to count—pardon the pun—so instead we used some glow-in-the-dark stars that came from … Continue reading Star Wars Math Counting and Patterning