How to Teach Young Children Patterns

A very simple, inexpensive way to start out teaching young children patterns would be to have three different colors of caps from gallon milk or water jugs.  Have several of each color.  If you don’t have the caps, then cut out circles out of colored tagboard.  Start with a very simple pattern and then make it progressively harder.  Start out demonstrating the whole pattern at first, showing how to duplicate the pattern to make sure the child understands the concept of “pattern.”  Then see if the child can duplicate it.  For example:

  • Red, blue, red, blue, red, blue, ____, ____, ____, ____, ____, ____
  • Red, green, red, green, red, green, ____, ____, ____, ____, ____
  • Red, blue, blue, red, blue, blue, ____, ____, ____, ____, ____, ____
  • Red, red, blue, red, red, blue, ____, ____, ____, ____, ____, ____
  • Red, blue, green, red, blue, green, ____, ____, ____, ____, ____
  • Red, green, green, blue, red, green, green, blue, ____, ____, ____, ____, ____, ____, ____, ____

As the child masters each level, have more complicated patterns.

Then add in two dimensions of color and shape:

  • red circle, blue square, red circle, blue square
  • red circle, green square, blue triangle, red circle, green square, blue triangle

As the child progresses, make patterns out of stickers (excellent way to make patterns) and other things besides color and shapes.

Teaching Patterns with Pattern Blocks

One thing that I purchased years ago was a set of pattern blocks and pattern block design cards.  These are great for teaching mathematical patterns.   Students not only get to see the patterns, but they get to touch and feel them.  They are able, through trial and error, to see how patterns work.  My own children got to use them at home while they were growing up, too, and now I am able to use them in private tutoring and in a couple of years hope to use them with our young grandson.   It’s worth the investment of $20-$30 to have these materials which not only develop cognitive thinking but are just plain fun to do!

If you don’t have the money to invest in these materials right now, you could make your own set of  one-dimensional shapes and simple pattern cards with colored tagboard.  Just look online at pattern blocks and pattern block design cards to get ideas.