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Teaching Patterns with The Clothespins Game by Briarpatch

written by: Cheryl Gabbert • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 2/8/2012

Rated one of the top toys of the year by Parents Magazine in 2008, "The Clothespins Game" is more than just a fun game, it's great for teaching patterns. Kids will love the competition of finishing their clotheslines first, and teachers will find the game useful for math pattern lessons.

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    Putting Up the Washing

    The Clothespins Game is great for teaching patterns to children at the pre-k and kindergarten level.

    The goal of the Clothespins Game is to complete three clotheslines with at least three items of clothing, with a finishing pole at the end of the clothesline. Players can choose to fill a clothesline with clothing of a single type, like skirts or shirts, or they might fill the line with clothing of a certain pattern. There are seven different clothing patterns and seven different types of clothing to choose from. Players have to watch out for an opposing player's bird cards, which can steal items from their clothesline and be placed on the opponent's line.

    When the game is played in the traditional way, four students can participate in the game at a time. This game would be great at a math center where four kids are in the center. The traditional game is most appropriate for younger students whose patterning skills are just emerging. Students will develop skills in displaying a continuing pattern. This is a great first step in teaching patterns to young children.

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    Changing the Rules

    For students that have mastered the concept of the traditional Clothespins Game, you could change the rules a bit in order to teach alternating patterns. Simply ask the kids to alternate between two different items of clothing on each clothesline or two different patterns on the clothing instead of using one continuing pattern. Students will learn how to create an alternating pattern in a hands-on way.

    For example, the traditional game calls for displaying one type of pattern. The child would create a clothesline with green polka-dots. No matter what type of clothing, it would have this pattern on it. With this modification, the child would create a clothesline with two alternating clothing patterns or types. He would display a green polka-dot item, then a pink checked item, followed by another green polka-dot item, then a pink checked item. The clothesline would need to be at least four items long to be a complete line.

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    More Difficult Patterns

    You can use this game for even more advanced math pattern lessons. Just ask the kids to use more than two alternating patterns when completing the clothesline. The students could use two pants, then a pair of shorts, and repeat that pattern. The only other modification is that you would need to make longer clotheslines, since you'll be making longer patterns. In order to ensure that you have enough cards, you may wish to limit the game to two clotheslines instead of three.

    The Clothespins Game is a fun way of teaching patterns, and it can be adapted to any level of development.