How Patterns Help Children Learn About Life
Patterns Are All Around Us
How many patterns do you see in the space around you as your read this article? Many times we look at patterns and do not "see" them. Patterns balance our view of life and add to its beauty. There is a certain symmetrical harmony that comes from understanding how patterns bring a natural order to our lives.
Did you ever count the number of stairs going up or down, count the number of windows in your home, or notice the pattern in your wallpaper? It's all part of our tendency to establish order in our every day lives. If you give a child a box full of paper cups she will make some interesting arrangements with them, but eventually she will most likely stack them into a pyramid. Again, this demonstrates the natural tendency to make sense of every day experiences through patterns.
Patterns help children learn sequencing and to make predictions which leads to mathematical skills, logic structure in algebra, and to establishing order in life. A toddler will sort green blocks from yellow ones as he builds a tower. He begins to notice things repeat in a certain order by size, shape or color. An older preschool child notices slightly more complicated sequencing such as knowing the days of the week, months of the year or odd and even numbering.
How To Help Your Child Discover Patterns
Children learn best through play and this works very well when you teach a concept such as patterns. As they enjoy the activity, they will understand the sequencing of items and predict "what comes next?"
If your child is of preschool age or below, I would suggest having them sort items before beginning any pattern activity. My mother kept a huge jar of assorted buttons on her dresser. She would often ask my sister and me to pick out a certain color button for her mending of an item. Of course we would enjoy sorting through the different styles, shapes and colors to find it. Little did we know that this was an actual learning activity for us. So, any task or activity you can think of that would make for a fun time can be used to teach patterns.
Once your child has grasped the sorting concept, you can begin to teach simple patterns. In primary school children learn patterns through the use of a variety of tools such as pattern blocks and math cubes. This is all good, but to extend the learning experience at home parents can use items in the home and outdoors to reinforce the importance of patterns and relationships.
Play an upbeat song that has a good basic tempo, such as a march, that your child can clap hands to the beat. Role model how to clap with the beat and encourage your child to follow along. Clap fast, clap slow, vary the claps of fast and slow as you play together. This will help them understand rhythm and pattern. You can also jump to the music in the same manner (fast, slow, jump three times and then stop, etc.) to establish a pattern of jumping.
For preschoolers, another great approach to patterns is to have them stamp shapes or use stickers on a strip of paper. Model the pattern for them and use a simple sequence at first, keeping it to two or three items; for example: apple, pear, banana.
A great introduction to a math pattern concept is to use numbers and ask them to complete the sequence, asking the child what is next? Or, you can have them fill in the blank as a practice in order of alphabet letters. Keep in mind that most preschool children can only recognize numbers to twenty and may need help with letters of the alphabet.
Learning Activity Ideas
Stack, Sort, Count
Match by size or color
Sort by category: example, trucks, cars, planes
Sort by color, shape, size, flavor
Candy can be used to count.
Sort by type: example, apple,pear, pumpkin
Stack, sort, size
Example: count 1, 2, 3, __?___ (ask what comes next)
This can be done orally or with use of items
Example: alphabet a, b, c, ?, e. Ask child to fill in the blank.
Use manipulatives of felt, plastic, etc. on table.
Nature's Natural Patterns
My favorite method of teaching patterns is to go outdoors. It is great exercise for everyone as well as a natural teaching platform for patterns. I have children bring pencils or crayons and a sturdy piece of paper to draw on. As they explore their surroundings, I ask them to look for patterns around them and to draw what they see. Here are some things you can point out:
- the brick pattern on a building or home
- the pattern on the sidewalk or driveway
- the tree rings
- the patterns on a leaf
- the number of petals on flowers
- the neighborhood house colors, shape, size
- the shadows of people, trees, buildings
You will be amazed at what they will find! Later, you can talk with them about their discoveries and post them somewhere for added emphasis. Your child will benefit from the activity and learn that nature has some interesting life lessons to teach them through patterns.
I have added a fun exercise below as a practice for adults who may want to test their pattern skills. I use this as an icebreaker in some of my college courses (source: Family Fun Magazine). You can post your answer in the comment section along with any other added insight to this topic.
Fascinating Video On Patterns In Nature!
© 2012 Dianna Mendez