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Teaching Children About Patterns

written by: CathleneSmith • edited by: Noreen Gunnell • updated: 10/18/2014

During the early elementary school years, students learn how to arrange objects and numbers into patterns. You can expand upon this concept at home with parent-child pattern activities.

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    Simplify Patten Organization with Everyday Objects

    Numbers Math activities with patterns promote logical reasoning in young children. Order, sequence, categorization, and structure will aid the child in mathematical theory. When helping a child with homework assignments involving patterns, parents can simplify the concept by providing colorful everyday objects that are easily manipulated into various patterns.

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    Household Objects You Can Use

    Most households contain a variety of manipulative objects that can enhance homework lessons on patterns. Parents can prepare for pattern activities by gathering the following items for their children to explore:

    Objects To Use For Color Patterns:

    Jellybeans or other candies (2 to 3 colors for beginning students, 3 or more colors for more advanced students)

    Lego blocks

    Pieces of colored chalk

    Small plastic animal manipulatives (dinosaurs, teddy bears, etc.)

    Colored board game pieces

    Objects To Use For Size Patterns:

    Toy cars or trucks (small, medium-sized, large)

    Stuffed animals of varying size

    Plastic/wooden toothpicks or strips of paper cut into varying lengths

    Number Value Patterns:



    Coins (pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters)

    Small squares of paper with numbers drawn on

    Picture Patterns:

    Picture cards from memory games

    Photocopied pictures of animals (such as cats, dogs, birds, and frogs) or people (men, women, boys, and girls)

    Hand-drawn pictures of faces (happy faces, sad faces, angry faces, etc.)

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    Pattern Homework Games

    Once parents and children have collected groups of objects to use in pattern homework activities, they can sit down together and play the following games:

    (1) Start with patterns of two: lay two different objects on a table (ex: blue block and red block), and then ask your child to pick the block that would start the pattern over again. Allow your child to continue making the pattern until each blue and red block has been used, then ask your child to describe the pattern out loud: "blue block, red block, blue block, red block". For the next round of the game, add a third object into the pattern (blue, red, and yellow blocks) and repeat the process. Continue increasing the number of objects and asking your child to explain the pattern that is being made.

    (2) Gather three or four people (including your child) around a table, and place a pile of objects in the center. The first person starts the pattern by taking one object from the middle, then each of the other players takes a turn choosing an object. When everyone has had one turn, ask your child to describe the pattern (ex: "dog, cat, frog, bird"). The first player then starts the pattern over again until no objects are left.

    (3) Create more challenging patterns by sequencing small groups of manipulatives (ex: two green jellybeans, then four purple jellybeans, then two green jellybeans, etc.) Guide your child in determining the correct order of the patterns.

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    By helping their child gain a firm understanding of patterns at a young age, parents can work cooperatively with teachers to promote logical thinking skills. These activities are not only entertaining for children, but they also help lay the groundwork for more advanced math concepts.