Sometimes activities seem so simple and trivial, that we forget our little learners have yet to master the skill. Patterns are all around us on a daily basis. Whether we are counting, measuring or laying a new tile floor, it all involves patterns. Even readers rely on patterns to help them recognize the traits of word families and decode unknown words. For example, the words “sat,” “hat,” and “mat” follow the same pattern, a consonant letter, followed by “at”. If you know those 3 words you will likely be able to read the word “cat,” even if you’ve never seen it before.
With patterns present in every facet of life, the ability to recognize and create patterns is a crucial early learning skill. While these skills do take practice, you don’t have to spend oodles of money on fancy instructional materials to teach them. This endless patterning box is literally comprised of junk from around the house. Any spare items like odd cupcake liners, straws, paper scraps, worn down pencils, broken crayons, loose buttons, empty mini cereal boxes, cut up egg cartons, rubber bands, old twist ties, old plastic bread clips, pen caps, cotton balls, literally anything.
The key to filling your patterning box is making sure you have at least 3 of every item. Why 3? Because by mathematical standards, it takes 3 repetitions for something to be considered a pattern. For example, A B A B is not considered a pattern; however, A B A B A B is considered a pattern. A A B A A B is not considered a pattern, but A A B A A B A A B is considered a pattern. So, aim for at least 3 of each item, but be sure to include several items in larger quantities.
You can use the patterning box in 2 ways. First you can give your kids free range to explore and create whatever patterns they can come up with. Of course, you will have to supervise to assure that they are actually creating patterns and provide guidance and suggestions as necessary. The second way to use the box is to create a sample pattern, such as A B A B A B and allow the kids to copy the pattern using different materials. Until, the kids catch on to the idea of patterning, you will most likely be using this method.
To keep your endless patterning box fresh, periodically add more odds and ends as you find them throughout the house. This way, there will always be a new discovery waiting for your kids, just around the corner. The possibilities are truly endless.