Family Math is a PBS SoCal initiative offering insights, tools, and support so parents and caregivers can confidently, joyfully and authentically explore math with children ages 2 to 5.
Patterns are everywhere. We can find patterns in nature, songs, books, numbers and even in our daily routines (breakfast, lunch, dinner, breakfast, lunch, dinner). In this hands-on activity, young children will practice recognizing, copying and extending patterns with simple items you have around the house.
This activity will help your child:
- Recognize simple repeating patterns
- Copy and extend patterns (AB, ABB, ABC, etc.)
- Construction paper
- Marker or another writing utensil
- Small items (e.g. building blocks, beads, paper clips, pipe cleaners, etc.)
- First, gather all your materials and lay the small items on a flat surface.
- On the construction paper, create several AB patterns using different visual attributes such as color, size or shape. Other attributes for patterns can be sound and motion. Some examples of patters AB patterns you can create are:
- Red, blue, red, blue, red, blue
- Square, rectangle, square, rectangle, square, rectangle
- Then, ask your child questions about the patterns such as:
- “Do you see a pattern?”
- “Do you notice anything that repeats?”
- “How can we name this pattern?”
- “What is its rule?”
- Next, ask your child to copy the AB patterns you created. Copying patterns is an easy way to help children understand what patterns are. Some examples of questions you can ask are:
- “Can you copy this pattern?”
- “Does your pattern follow the same rule?”
- “How are these patterns the same or different?”
- You can also create more complex patterns such as ABB or AABB patterns for your child to copy. Tip: Make sure to show at least three iterations of the repeating unit (e.g. AB, ABB, AABB). This helps children identify and understand the pattern structure and rule.
- Once your child is comfortable copying patterns, ask your child to extend the pattern. On the construction paper, create several patterns such as AB, ABB, ABC, AABB and ask your child to continue the pattern. Ask questions such as:
- “How does this pattern continue?”
- “What comes next?”
- “How did you know what the pattern is?”
Keep the Conversation Going
Go on a pattern walk around the neighborhood. Ask your child to point out any repeating patterns along the way, such as patterns in nature, sidewalks, fences, buildings and so on.
- “A-B-A-B-A—a Book of Pattern Play” by Brian P. Cleary
- “Pattern Bugs” by Trudy Harris
- “The Napping House” by Audrey Wood
Head Start Framing or CCSS-M: K
Goal P-MATH 7. Child understands simple patterns.