Use manipulatives like checkers to teach patterns.

How to Explain Patterning to a Preschooler

by Aline Lindemann

When preschoolers learn and make patterns, they develop their math readiness skills. There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching patterns to little ones, though. Patterning is often a natural part of children's play and some kids learn visually while others need a hands-on approach. Explain patterning to preschoolers using a variety of methods such as manipulatives.

1 Line up five or six checkers in a simple one-to-one (black, red, black, red) pattern and ask your preschooler to describe what he sees. Ask him to continue the pattern with the remaining checkers. Assuming this is easy for him, make a new and slightly more complicated pattern and ask him to finish it. If you don't have checkers, use buttons, blocks or paper cut-outs of two different colors.

2 Tell the children to sit on the floor in a circle and start a simple clap, tap the floor, clap pattern. Change it up to include a third sound or movement. Incorporate hand-held jingle bells, tambourines, maracas or bongos for more complicated patterns. Let children make up new patterns for the group to follow and mimic.

3 Make patterned art with paint, stamps and sponges. Use old newspaper to conserve resources. Spread out a large sheet of newspaper and demonstrate how to make patterns using paint and stamps of various shapes and colors. Spread it out to dry--you now have custom-designed gift wrap.

4 Recite simple songs and poetry that have repetition and pattern in the form of a recognizable refrain. Ask children to listen for the repeating pattern and ask them to join in.

About the Author

Aline Lindemann is a health, food and travel writer. She has also worked as a social worker, preschool teacher and art educator. Lindemann holds a Master of Liberal Studies in culture, health and creative nonfiction writing from Arizona State University.

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