Once you start looking for patterns, you will see them everywhere. There are patterns in colors, shapes, sounds, dances, and even daily routines! Recognizing patterns is a skill that translates directly into algebraic thinking, so by exploring these ideas now, you will be setting the stage for bigger math ideas later. Young children can explore very simple repeating patterns in a "monkey-see, monkey-do" fashion. Encourage your child to copy patterns that you can make, and then you can copy your child's patterns.
Dance to Patterns
This age is a great time to explore songs that use movement patterns with songs. Some favorites include "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" and "The Wheels on the Bus". If you are adventurous, make up your own dance to a familiar song, adding patterns like jump, clap, spin around, jump, clap, spin around. The Chicken Dance is also a popular patterned dance.
Make Playdough Patterns
Use playdough to create lots of different colored balls. Play with your child to create repeating patterns like yellow, green, blue, yellow, green, blue, etc. Then have your child cover her eyes. Take one ball away (leaving an empty space). When your child opens her eyes, have her try to guess which color is missing. Say the pattern out loud with her to help her figure it out. Your turn to guess what's missing next! If you do not have playdough, this can also be done using crayons.
Create Sticker Patterns
Little ones might still lack the fine motor control to draw, but stickers are a great way to create different patterns. A package of foil stars or colorful dots can lead to lots of pattern-play fun. Try red star, blue star, yellow star, red star, blue star, yellow star, etc. Have your child say each color or shape out loud as he places the sticker down.
Build Pattern Block Towers
The next time you and your child build a tower with blocks, try alternating between squares and rectangles, or, if you are using colored blocks, alternate colors, such as blue block, green block, blue block, green block. Have your child copy your tower and then see if you can copy one that she creates.
Using real objects in your home, create a pattern and ask your child to fill in the next set. For example, a pattern could be spoon spoon knife spoon spoon knife, where your child sets out another spoon, spoon, and knife to continue the pattern.
Draw a pattern for your child to continue matching. For example, you can draw a pattern of star star circle star star circle, and your child continues the pattern by drawing or saying what comes next.