The Importance of Patterning and How to Develop Pattern Awareness

Creating, extending, naming and talking about patterns helps to build a strong foundation for logical thinking which will develop into useful problem solving skills which will stay with us for life. Here are 2 other reasons why patterning is an essential skill to impart and how you can start introducing patterning in early childhood. 

1) Foundation for mathematical understanding and thinking

Identifying patterns helps to build a strong foundation for understanding of the counting sequence - for example, it helps in recognising that when numbers are added in different orders, the total stays the same. It also helps to develop observation and prediction skills which are important in science learning. 

2) Helps to develop language learning

Although patterning is often associated with Math and Science, language learning also involves many regularities. For example, English plurals of nouns often have a 's' at the end of the word but individual nouns do not (eg birds vs bird, apples vs apple etc). Past tense verbs are often denoted with -'ed' (eg kick vs kicked, hand vs handed etc). 

Develop Pattern Awareness in Early Childhood

We often think of patterns as repeated sequences. Patterns can also be dynamic or static. We are familiar with static patterns, like the veins on a leaf, the checkered squares on a chessboard, on lines on a dress. Dynamic patterns like a song, unfold over time. Here are some ways in which you can explore the different variations with your little ones. 

1) Make use of what is around you

Children can using toys (lego bricks, soft toys etc), leaves or even pebbles to form lines or even a radial pattern. Older children can try making varieties of repeating patterns, instead of just a Red, Blue, Red Blue pattern, progress to some complex combinations (eg. red red blue yellow, red red blue yellow etc). Try different activities like stacking, sorting and counting to get your child familiar with the properties of the items he/she is handling. 

2) Action Patterns

For younger children, introduce songs such as "Heads and Shoulders" to get them into the groove of touching their heads, shoulders, knees and toes. Switch sequences and see if they can spot the error. 

3) Read stories and rhymes 

Dynamic patterns are also used in many popular stories such as 'The Enormous Turnip', 'There Was An Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly', 'The Hungry Caterpillar', and many others. It unfolds as you read, gaining the interest of the little ones as they hang on to anticipate and even predict what comes next. As you read, emphasise the growing pattern by calmly reading the repeated features in the story and adding a tone of exaggeration to the new elements. 


In the Exploring Patterns box, we explore the patterns all around us through fun hands-on activities, craftwork and science experiments. Get your box of materials and resources here for some pattern fun! Instruction booklet included.