Math Helping Your Four-Year-Old Identify and Predict Patterns

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.

Support your child's ability to recognize 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.

Chicken Dance

In this Peg + Cat game, your child can learn about patterns by helping create a dance for Peg's chickens.

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!

Use Math While Baking Peg’s Honey Cake

Peg and her friends find math all around them, including in the kitchen. Together with your child, look for all the ways that you use math as you bake and decorate a delicious honey cake.

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.

Elmo's World: Books

Elmo wants to make a book. Your child can choose one of the titles -- Up and Away, Under the Sea, or Blast Off -- and then add colors and stickers to the pictures to help Elmo make his book.

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.

Bring It!

George is having a party. Your child can practice early math skills such as patterning, addition, and subtraction by answering questions as she moves along the game board to reach the party.

Make a Snack: Pattern Necklaces

Using string and fruit-flavored cereal Os, create necklaces with color patterns. Start with something simple, such as two colors repeating. When your child is ready, try more colors for a larger pattern. Then comes the fun part: eating in a pattern!

Vegetable Patterns

Gabriela is sorting her vegetable harvest. Your child can select vegetables to practice identifying and extending simple patterns.