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Patterns Activities for Preschoolers

Written by: Kokotree

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patterns learning activities

Teaching patterning skills to preschoolers is a critical step in their journey toward understanding more advanced math concepts. It’s not just about recognizing and duplicating patterns but also about creating their own. Preschool math can be a fun and engaging, especially when it involves patterns.

Starting with simple AB patterns and gradually moving on to more complex ABC patterns can make learning smoother for your little ones. It’s essential to model the patterning activity first and then let your preschooler complete the pattern on their own. Remember, understanding patterns and sequences, even in abstract ways, lays the groundwork for their future math prowess.

Key Takeaways about Teaching Patterns to Preschoolers

  • Pattern activities form an essential foundation for more advanced math concepts in preschoolers. These include recognizing, duplicating, and creating patterns of their own.
  • The three main patterns we focus on in preschool are AB, AAB, and ABC patterns. Starting with simple AB patterns, it gradually progresses to more complex ABC patterns, preparing young learners for future complex patterns.
  • Methods to teach patterns to preschoolers include pointing out patterns in the environment, teaching patterning rules, integrating patterns in games or songs, and engaging preschoolers in hands-on pattern activities.
  • Pattern activities benefit preschoolers, from enhancing cognitive skills such as matching, sorting, and sequencing to developing early mathematical understanding. These activities also promote fine motor skills and introduce kids to sensory exploration.
  • When introducing pattern activities, it’s crucial to do so gradually, starting with simple patterns, modeling the activity beforehand, using verbal cues, and reinforcing with pattern cards.
  • Picture books and pattern cards are practical tools for teaching pattern activities. Fun, engaging, and repetitive pattern activities are instrumental in bolstering a robust understanding of patterns in preschoolers.
Educational App for Preschool

Patterns Activities for Preschoolers

Incorporating pattern activities into your little one’s day is more accessible. There are many fun ways to teach positions and patterns, and you’re likely already implementing many of these.

Activities that Teach Patterns to Preschoolers

  1. Pattern Block Puzzles – Children use various shapes to recreate patterned designs, enhancing their recognition and prediction of patterns.
  2. Bead Stringing – Create sequences of colored beads to form a pattern, encouraging recognition and reproduction of patterns.
  3. Patterned Snack Sorting – Sort snacks into patterned sequences based on color, shape, or size, making patterns tangible and tasty.
  4. Nature Patterns – Collect leaves, sticks, or stones and arrange them in repeating patterns, connecting mathematical concepts with the natural world.
  5. Stamping Patterns – Use stamps or homemade stampers to create visual patterns on paper, blending art with pattern recognition.
  6. Color Coding – Use colored cards or blocks to create sequences children can replicate or extend, emphasizing color patterns.
  7. Clapping Patterns and Rhythms – Clap out simple rhythmic patterns for children to repeat, integrating auditory patterns into learning.
  8. Story Sequencing – Cut pictures from a storybook and have children arrange them correctly, teaching narrative patterns.
  9. Patterned Clothing Design – Children use fabric markers or stickers to create patterns on plain T-shirts or paper cutouts of clothing, combining art with pattern learning.
  10. Weather Pattern Tracking – Keep track of daily weather on a calendar to observe patterns over time, connecting science and pattern observation.
  11. Sock Matching Game – Mix a pile of socks and have children match them by color or pattern, reinforcing recognition of visual patterns.
  12. Patterned Lego Towers – Build towers using Legos, alternating colors or shapes in a specific sequence to create a visible pattern.
  13. Musical Patterns – Use different musical instruments to create a sequence of sounds for children to identify and repeat, introducing auditory patterns.
  14. Patterned Storyboard – Create a storyboard with a sequence of events that children can arrange correctly, teaching them to recognize sequencing patterns.
  15. DIY Patterned Bookmarks – Children decorate bookmarks with stickers or drawings, following specific color or shape patterns, blending creativity with pattern recognition.

Activities that Teach Positions to Preschoolers

  1. Treasure Hunt – Place objects around the room and use positional language to guide children to the treasures, enhancing their understanding of spatial relationships.
  2. Positional Words Simon Says – A variation of Simon Says focusing on positional words like “over,” “under,” “behind,” etc., to teach spatial concepts.
  3. Obstacle Course – Create a simple indoor or outdoor obstacle course using commands that emphasize positions and directions, encouraging physical activity and spatial awareness.
  4. Building Block Commands – Instruct where to place building blocks relative to each other, teaching concepts above, below, next to, etc.
  5. Positional Puzzles – Use puzzles that require placing pieces in specific positions relative to the puzzle board or other pieces, reinforcing spatial vocabulary and reasoning.
  6. Hide and Seek with Toys – Hide a toy and give positional clues for its location, like “under the table” or “behind the couch,” to teach spatial prepositions.
  7. Photo Position Book – Create a photo book with pictures of objects in different positions (e.g., a ball above a box) and discuss the positions with children.
  8. Positional Word Hokey Pokey – Adapt the Hokey Pokey song to focus on positional words, encouraging children to place their hands above, below, behind, etc.
  9. Box Tunnel Crawl – Set up a tunnel using boxes and give instructions on moving through it, such as “crawl under the box” or “go through the middle.”
  10. Flashlight Fun – Use a flashlight in a dark room and guide children with positional words to find hidden objects or follow a path.
  11. Positional Word Charades – Act out positional words and have children guess the word, enhancing understanding through movement.
  12. Balloon Keep Up – While keeping balloons in the air, instruct children on which position to hit them, like “hit it up high” or “keep it low.”
  13. Map Making – Have children draw maps of their classroom or home, placing objects in specific positions to teach spatial relationships and mapping skills.
  14. Positional Word Art – Direct children to place stickers or objects on art projects using positional words, such as “put the star above the house.”
  15. Follow the Leader – Lead children through an obstacle course using only positional words for direction, emphasizing understanding and listening skills.

When initially teaching patterns, it’s best to start with something simple. Consistency is critical here, so I suggest working on AB patterns before exploring the more challenging ABC patterns. It’s also helpful to model the activity beforehand, walking your preschooler through the process before they attempt to complete the pattern on their own.

Interestingly, I’ve noted changes in the pattern recognition abilities of many preschoolers over time. Earlier, they might need to notice or hear a pattern. I recommend a sing-song reading of the pattern to aid them better, pointing to each item as you go. Adding positional and ordinal words into your descriptor arsenal will also enhance learning.

Remember, preschoolers thrive on repetition. Have them read the pattern they’re to continue before actually doing so. Also, encourage your preschooler to copy the pattern. It’s not about a deluge of information – instead, keeping it light, engaging, and repetitive.

Along their patterning journey, children will naturally pass through several stages. They’ll start with identifying a pattern or its anomalies, gradually progressing to reading, coping, and continuing a pattern. This will then lead to creating new patterns, eventually recognizing number patterns. As a parent or teacher, it’s essential to understand this progression and apply it to your teaching methods accordingly.

In some cases, regardless of pattern activities, children might still find creating their patterns a challenge. But don’t worry: there are numerous tips for helping children develop their pattern skills, which we’ll detail further in this discussion.

Importance of Pattern Activities for Preschoolers

As an experienced early educator, I can’t stress enough the importance of pattern activities for preschoolers. They form an essential foundation for more advanced mathematical concepts. Pattern recognition, for instance, isn’t just about spotting similarities. It’s a vital step in understanding sequences and creating one’s own.

Teaching preschoolers about patterns is more than a simple academic exercise. It’s about equipping them with a skill to serve them throughout their lives. In abstract ways, it helps young learners understand the world. I’ve seen firsthand the confidence a child gains when they crack a pattern for the first time. It’s one small step towards independent problem-solving.

A firm favorite among my preschoolers is manipulative activities. They are tactile, colorful, and engaging. By handling physical objects, children learn to recognize and replicate patterns. They also begin to create their own. And let me tell you, there’s no greater joy than seeing their eyes light up when they’ve made their first pattern.

One of the simplest yet effective pattern activities involves clapping. We often start class with a simple “one clap, two claps” sequence. It’s a fun, interactive way to get kids to recognize patterns and sets a positive tone for the rest of the math class.

Types of Patterns to Teach Preschoolers

Diving into the exciting world of patterns, we focus on three main types: AB, AAB, and ABC patterns. Gaining a solid understanding of these foundational patterns primes preschoolers to recognize more complex patterns in the future.

AB Patterns

Most young learners start their pattern adventure with AB patterns. This simple sequence involves alternating two elements. For example, think of the rhythm of a heartbeat: thump-thump, thump-thump. It’s an easy-to-grasp pattern and a great place to start. After all, the main goal is to get our preschoolers comfortable with the idea of patterns and to begin recognizing them in the world around them. The AB pattern keeps it straightforward, focusing on two alternating elements simultaneously.

AAB Patterns

Once the basic idea of repeating elements, or patterns, is understood, we can introduce the next layer of complexity: the AAB pattern. In this pattern, an element is repeated once before moving on to the next element. For instance, think of the color sequence: red-red-blue. Like our AB pattern, this pattern does repeat, but it introduces the idea of a repeated element, providing a gentle stepping stone toward more complex patterns.

ABC Patterns

Finally, the ABC pattern completes the foundational pattern trio. This pattern is a series of three unique, non-repeating elements. For instance, consider the size-based sequence: small-medium-large. The ABC pattern challenges preschoolers to keep track of three components, considerably elevating the cognitive demand. Recognizing the ABC pattern takes practice, and it’s an achievement that will set up your preschooler for success with even more complicated patterns down the line.

How Do You Teach Patterns to Preschoolers?

Teaching patterns to preschoolers is no small feat. It’s an essential cognitive skill that plays a significant role in their early mathematical understanding.

Patterns in the Environment

Children encounter their first patterns in their surroundings. Examples could be a pattern on clothing, patterns on leaves, or a pattern on a floor tile. Pointing out these patterns is an excellent way to introduce the concept. Encourage your preschooler to seek patterns in their environment, helping them identify repeated elements.

Familiar Patterns

It is practical to use familiar concepts to teach kids about patterns. Preschoolers can learn by identifying patterns in shapes, colors, sizes, and textures. They can start seeing patterns in numbers and words as they progress in understanding.

Patterns Follow a Rule

It’s essential to teach children that patterns follow a rule and that they repeat. For instance, a zebra’s pattern is a black stripe followed by a white stripe, which then repeats. Introduce simple rules in the AB pattern, such as alternating one red block and one blue block.

Ways to Make Patterns

Activities that promote patterns are essential, too. You can start with a simple task like “Clap, click, turn around, repeat,” gradually ramping up the complexity as your preschooler gets more comfortable. Also, integrating patterns in games or songs can effectively teach preschoolers the concept in a fun and engaging manner.

Skills That Help Teach Patterning

Successfully teaching patterns relies on several cognitive skills like matching, sorting, and sequencing. Matching activities help children understand the concept of similarity, which is the basis of pattern formation. Sorting further refines this understanding by adding the dimension of categorization. Sequencing activities cement the idea by adding continuity and progression to the equation.

Concrete Experiences of Patterns

Finally, engaging your preschooler in concrete experiences and highlighting patterns is a critical reinforcement tool. These activities should be geared towards making preschoolers feel the pattern and experience it at the level of their whole body. It includes games that introduce patterns or conduct pattern-finding walks to spot environmental patterns.

Through these processes, preschoolers can start seeing and understanding patterns, laying the groundwork for more advanced mathematical concepts in the future. Your support and guidance in this journey are crucial as these steps will strengthen their foundation for more complex cognitive and analytical skills.

Benefits of Pattern Activities for Preschoolers

  1. Enhances Cognitive Abilities – Pattern activities improve skills like matching, sorting, and sequencing, which are crucial for early math learning.
  2. Promotes Sensory Exploration and Fine Motor Skills – Tactile elements like pom poms and legos strengthen hand muscles and enhance the pincer grasp.
  3. Integrates Creativity with Learning – Drawing and coloring patterns merge creativity with conceptual understanding, offering a tangible learning experience.
  4. Increases Engagement – Fun elements in pattern activities, such as games and songs, make learning more memorable and enjoyable.
  5. Builds Foundation for Critical Thinking – Early exposure to patterns develops problem-solving, logical reasoning, and critical thinking skills.
  6. Facilitates Comprehensive Learning – Resources like color and spring patterning cards, used with manipulatives, ensure an immersive, hands-on learning environment.

How to Introduce Pattern Activities to Preschoolers

Teaching exciting pattern activities to preschoolers maximizes their cognitive abilities in an engaging, light-hearted manner. However, it’s essential to gradually phase in these pattern activities according to the child’s comfort level and understanding.

Here are some helpful steps I regularly employ:

  1. Start with Simple Patterns: Avoid immediately overwhelming a toddler with complex patterns. I think it’s best to start with basic AB patterns. These manageable sequences provide a great starting point before introducing the slightly advanced ABC patterns.
  2. Model Beforehand: Children tend to learn more effectively via imitation. Before expecting them to complete the pattern independently, please take a moment to demonstrate it yourself.
  3. Utilize Verbal Cues: Consider reading it aloud for youngsters who may struggle to visually or audibly identify the pattern. Use a singsong voice or incorporate movement, pointing to each item in the sequence. This auditory and physical engagement can help clarify the process.
  4. Use Position and Ordinal Words: Describing the pattern with positional terms like first, next, and last enhances the child’s understanding and communication skills. It’s a practice that also aids other areas of development, such as language and logic.
  5. Encourage Copying Before Extending: Preschoolers typically learn to recognize patterns by first replicating them, so let them copy the pattern before expecting them to extend it. This makes the process gradual and more manageable.
  6. Introduce Pattern Cards: Pattern cards are incredibly versatile resources, perfect for teaching patterns to children.

These techniques emphasize the importance of a patient, gradual approach to introducing pattern activities, ensuring that it’s a fun, productive process rather than a challenging ordeal. Tailoring these methods to suit each child’s learning pace, style, and preference can significantly enhance the pattern learning experience.


So there you have it! Teaching patterns to preschoolers can be a fun and interactive process. Using tools like picture books and patterning cards can make learning engaging for the little ones. Starting with AB patterns and gradually moving to ABC patterns is a great strategy.

Remember, it’s all about repetition and practice. Encouraging kids to copy patterns will enhance their learning. As they progress, they’ll begin to understand number patterns too. As parents or teachers, we must adjust our teaching methods to meet their learning needs.

And, of course, I’ll keep sharing more tips to help your child ace their pattern skills. Here’s to making learning an enjoyable journey for our preschoolers!

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