Prepare your preschooler for early math skills by teaching him to recognize patterns in the world around him. By using fun textures and colors, you can give him a hands-on approach to learning and playing with patterns -- he doesn't need to know that you are providing him with a basis for addition and multiplication. Craft time, play time and yes, even the dreaded laundry time all provide an avenue for teaching your munchkin about patterns.
What preschooler doesn’t love to string necklaces? Your young child may think she is simply making something beautiful, but you are actually helping her to develop fine motor skills and recognize early math patterns. Vary the kinds of necklaces and bracelets she makes to teach her about different shapes and textures. For the store-bought packages of beads, use either fishing line or chenille wire to string your design, depending on her dexterity with small objects. As another fun alternative, create necklaces out of yarn and pantry items like large colored macaroni and wheel pasta. Put each kind of pasta in its own bowl for her to choose from and create a pattern by color or shape. Then, cut and tape the end of yarn to make it easier for your preschooler to thread through the pasta.
Does your preschooler live and breathe trains? Use that fascination to your advantage by creating a pattern train out of any number of household objects. At snack time, have him march a gummy bear army train across his plate, alternating the colors. He won’t complain about making that lesson disappear! While you are sorting the never-ending collection of mismatched socks, buy yourself some quiet folding time by asking your preschooler to make a sock train of black-white-black-white across the bed. As another lesson, create a fun craft train with black construction paper, craft glue and colored cereal loops. Glue the colored cereal "cars" onto the black page and draw smoke clouds with white chalk. Next, sneak in a mini pre-K math lesson by collecting spare change from the couch and junk drawer. Have him line up patterns of nickels and pennies. Lastly, during play time, encourage him to create a pattern from trains of colored blocks or interlocking cubes.
Using music as a teaching tool activates multiple areas of the brain, and engaging your preschooler in a sound activity will help to reinforce her understanding through kinesthetic learning. Wake up the neighbors with alternating claps and pats followed by alternating claps and stomps. Be prepared for giggles! If she is doing well with the pattern, combine them -- clap, pat, clap, stomp. For variety, use musical instruments instead, such as bell, shaker, bell, shaker. If you don’t own multiple instruments, don’t rush out to buy them. Simply put dried beans in an empty oatmeal or drink mix cylinder for your shaker and hold two spoons together loosely on either side of a finger for your “clang” sound.
Create a pattern parade of shape or animal stamps marching across craft paper. Use different colors of ink and vary both the shape and color for his design. Surprise your preschooler by transforming his pattern of shapes into a balloon parade by drawing squiggly lines coming down from the base of the shapes. Add his name to the paper and send it to a grandparent as a fun card.
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