Patterning is a simple way to help develop critical thinking in young children. As simple as it may seem to our adult minds, determining what comes next in a series is a critical thinking skill that must be developed. “Heart, square, heart square, heart, what comes next?” I was so surprised when my two year old continued to scream out things like “Orange!” or “Dog!” I have to admit, it began to concern me. I would ask his father (a classroom teacher), “does this seem strange to you?” His chuckle and soothing, “No babe, he’s just two,” responses made me feel better, but my eyebrows stayed raised. It’s normal as a parent to think that your child should catch on to certain concepts with ease and when they don’t, consider it to be linked to some major underlying issue…..but I promise you most of the time, they’re just two, or three or four or…..you get the point. So instead of pulling together a team of my best teacher friends and beginning to collect data for an intervention for our son…I calmed down and kept trying.
At our local library there is a great sing and read program where the librarian leads the kids in songs, reads stories and then the children have arts and craft time. When I first started introducing patterns to Carter we created this leaf pattern during one of our library trips. We gave it a title, “Fall Leaves,” and added it to our learning wall in his room. Then each day we just “read” the pattern. Carter is still learning his colors so I incorporated that as well. At this point I wasn’t really concerned about him being able to extend the pattern, meaning I did not ask him “what comes next?” We simply “read” the pattern.
After about a week, I decided to test the waters. I drew hearts on a sentence strip and gave Carter two crayons (an orange and a purple since those were the colors we had been working with the week before) and told him we were going to make a pattern. I colored the first two hearts and then we discussed which colors the next hearts should be colored.
Each time that Carter had to decided which color came next I had him go back to the beginning and read the pattern aloud.
Eventually he started to get the hang of it!
Now I try and incorporate the idea of patterning into other activities.
Try and remember to only give your child the number of choices they should actually use. For example, don’t give them three colors to choose from when the pattern is only calling for two. To start you want to focus on AB patterns, which are patterns that only use two different objects or colors. Once they get the hang of this you can start to add more to the mix.