Creating patterns can be taught to infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Clapping your hands and encouraging your infant to mimic your claps is exposing him/her to patterns.  If your toddler falls down, stands up and does not cry, and you applaud them saying, “Yay!” (and they do it again to get the same response), they have recognized a pattern.  Children are never too young to be engaged in finding patterns. Pattern activities are so easy to DIY at home.

Learning how to recognize and create patterns is an essential building block for later learning in mathematics. Here are 9 activities plus additional information for teaching children about patterns. The hands-on activities are for preschoolers.

What Children Learn from Making Patterns

Our brains are wired to light up when patterns are detected (patterns of behavior, daily schedule, of voices, etc.)
Colored stickers are a great way to teach patterns for preschool.  Create a pattern i.e. blue sticker, red sticker, blue sticker, red sticker, and then see if your child can guess what comes next.
 Here is a file folder game I created to make patterns with color bears:
Here is one that uses electrical tape from the local hardware store:
I created a different pattern on each strip of paper, then left the kid-safe scissors and rolls of tape on the table as an invitation to play in the morning. My son had a good learning time with this one that combined cutting practice, fine motor exercise and math practice.
There are simple and complex patterns: a,b,a,b is simple, abc, abc, abc, is more complex, and aabc, aabc, is even tougher.  There are ways to meet your child’s learning ability by simplifying or creating a more complex pattern to explore.
Teacher on the floor playing with preschool children. Text reads patterns for infants, toddlers and preschool. DIY patterning activities are discussed and also the learning benefits of patterning.

Pattern Activities for Multiple Ages

  • Make it a partner game: You use one color marker and let your child pick another color.  You make a colored dot on a paper, and then have your child make a colored dot with their marker next to your mark.  Continue by you making a mark, and then them, repeatedly until you get the sequence of the pattern established a few times.  Switch up the pattern the next time by making two marks with your color and then one with their color, or vice versa.  See what patterns they want to create!
  • Make a bead necklace and start the pattern allowing your child to finish it.
  • Using two different types of noodles, string them on yarn, or glue them on paper to make a pattern.
  • Have a sensory box of dry beans? Create a pattern with two different beans and have your child repeat it.
  • Clap a pattern: Using music for kids, or clap a pattern such as one clap and two fast claps. Encourage your child to mimic it back to you.  Even older infants can do this. This pattern activity is perfect for infants, toddlers and preschoolers!
  • The beat of music is a pattern since the notes repeat in most songs: Listen to Classical music during playtime, clap along to songs on the radio, use toy instruments to follow the pattern of the music beat. This list of songs for babies are perfect for doing this pattern activity with little ones.
Pattern blocks in varying colors and patterns. Text reads patterns for infants, toddlers and preschool.

This can be a ‘station’ or ‘center’ in your play room, if you have one. Otherwise, you can combine the chosen pattern activity items and store them in zip top bags or small boxes so that they can be taken out and utilized by your child when they need some time at the table or to focus on one activity.

What is your child’s favorite pattern activity?

Pattern activities for infants, toddlers and preschool kids plus why patterns are important.