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Welcome to Preschool Math, a series that will highlight articles on developing patterning, sorting and number sense with your preschooler!

Patterning is an important preschool math skill that often gets overlooked–yet patterning is everywhere and so easy, once you know where to look. As with teaching young children anything, it’s important to make the learning a part of play and a part of your everyday life. This is so easy to do with patterning! You’ll find patterns in your house, songs, books, clothes and more. Once you start looking, you’ll notice them everywhere. You don’t need any special toys or teaching tools to help your child learn about patterns! Read on for some of my favorite pattern books and activities!

One of my favorite pattern books is called Pattern Fish. Everything in this book is a pattern! From the catchy, rhyming text to the edges on each page to components of the fish themselves. Also, the book has ideas at the end for helping to teach patterns.

A fun activity to do with this book is with rainbow colored goldfish—let your preschooler draw an ocean-themed picture. Then, give him goldfish to glue on the paper in a pattern! If your child is just starting to make patterns, only give two colors of crackers so an ABABAB pattern can be easily created. If your child is more advanced with patterning skills, try giving multiple colors and see what complex patterns come up! Don’t worry if you child doesn’t create any type of pattern the first time you try. A pre-patterning skill is simply lining objects up in a row.

Another great book by the same author is Pattern Bugs. It has all the same great features as Pattern Fish, including activities to help teach patterns and patterns all throughout the book. A fun activity to do after reading this book is to make pattern bug antenna! Buy plastic headbands at the dollar store and some pipe cleaners. Using Fruit Loops or Fruity Cheerios, let your child make patterns on the pipe cleaners. Then, attach the pipe cleaners to the headband for some adorable, pattern bug antenna!

Let’s look at patterns in your child’s world. The great thing about patterns is you can find them almost every single day. You might find patterns on your child’s striped shirt, the bricks on the house, tile in the bathroom or kitchen or even on some couches and chairs. Start pointing out patterns in what you do every day with your children. Use words like repeating, pattern and copy to describe what you see. Just glancing in my entrance, I see this pattern on the entrance mat:

Also there is a pattern on my hand railing. You can see the pattern is twisted post, straight post, twisted post, straight post.

A more advanced patterning skill is being able to extend patterns. Try making a pattern and have your child tell you the pattern. Then place a few items in front of the pattern and ask, “What comes next?”

"What comes next in this pattern? An orange or banana?"

Kids have a blast when you try to challenge them! Challenge your child by creating a pattern together, having them close their eyes and you taking a piece out from the middle of the pattern somewhere. See if your child can figure out what is missing from the pattern!

"What is missing in this pattern?"

Here are some other simple ways to make patterns a part of what you already do:

  • Give your child two things for snack (such as banana slices and crackers) arranging them in a pattern on her plate.
  • Make up rhythm patterns. For example, tap your knees and clap your hands—tap, clap, tap, clap, tap, clap.
  • Point patterns out anywhere you find them in your house. Maybe your shower curtain has a striped or polka dot pattern on it!
  • Make a game out of it. Go for a walk around your neighborhood and see where you can find patterns in nature.

Look around the room you’re in right now. Can you find at least one pattern? You’re on your way to teaching your child!