Today I have a really simple activity that you can do with kids aged 2 to 10 to help boost their math skills over the summer. I’ll show you how to use nature patterns to get your kids thinking, learning, and having fun! I’ve also got a free printable, lots of ideas for patterning activities, and book recommendations.
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For these nature patterning activities, you really only need mother nature! However, if you want some extra support for your child (and some extra activities) – you’ll want to print out the patterning sheet too. (Just promise to print it out on recycled paper!)
- A copy of our Nature Patterns Printable
- Objects from nature – can include stones, pinecones, small sticks, dandelions, shells, leaves, etc.
- A small bag or basket to collect items
Once you have your printable copy of the Nature Patterns sheets, cut out each pattern example strip. Then you can have your child choose 1 or more to use for the day. You will also need the blank strip to use to extend the pattern.
My son and I first chose the maple key and stick AB Pattern sheet.
Note: An AB pattern is one of the simplest repetitive patterns. Like blue, red, blue, red, blue, red…. or square, circle, square, circle, square, circle…. and it’s one of the easiest patterns to begin with.
To get ready for our “work” – we went on a hunt to find lots of maple keys and sticks (collect at least 5 of each).
Hands-On Patterning Play
After finding our objects, I had my son match them up to the pictures on the strip.
Then I asked him to tell me what would come next?
He was able to do this easily.
After he had extended the pattern a few more items, I modeled using my words to describe the pattern he had extended.
Example: “The pattern is Stick, Maple key, Stick, Maple key, Stick, Maple key…etc.”
If your child is very young, and finding this challenging, you can show them how to continue the pattern, then try a different AB pattern strip next.
Since my son grasped this type of pattern well, we decided to move to a more challenging pattern.
Making Things More Challenging
Next, we tried the Stick, Cone, Stone ABC pattern.
Note: ABC patterns have 3 different elements that repeat. For example: blue, red, green, blue, red, green, blue, red, green…. and square, circle, triangle, square, circle, triangle, square, circle, triangle…
Onetime seemed able to match the objects to the pictures and extend this pattern with a little bit of help from me.
Whenever he made a mistake, I waited for a moment or two, until he said he was done. Then I asked him to look at his pattern again and listen to how it sounded.
I modelled describing the pattern out loud, “Stick, pinecone, stone, Stick, pinecone, stone…” and emphasized the first object in each part (“Stick” in this case).
When I got to his mistake – I emphasized the word and asked, “Did that sound right?”
Onetime was usually able to detect his error and fix it with this extra support. If your child makes a mistake, you can try doing the same thing, or asking them to tell you if it “looks right?”
If they don’t see the mistake, just show them what object should go there, and then work together to extend the pattern – or choose another ABC strip.
A Pattern Twist
Last, we tried the more difficult AAB pattern with stones and dandelions (although we used another flower instead).
Note: AAB patterns have the first two elements are the same and then the third changes, and this repeats. Example: blue, blue, red, blue, blue, red, blue, blue, red…. and square, square, circle, square, square, circle…
First I had him match the objects to the pictures again, and then I asked him to continue the pattern by asking, “What comes next?”
Whenever Onetime would struggle, I would model using my words to describe the patterns. This type of speaking – can help model to your child what you want them to do eventually in their heads.
Eventually, Onetime got this pattern with lots of verbal support!
A New Way to Use the Nature Patterns
Another completely different way to use the strips is to print off multiple copies, cut up all the strips into squares, and have your child make patterns of their own using the photos.
Onetime was able to do a simple AB pattern on his own. And after more experience with the different types of patterns, I eventually saw him starting to create AAB and ABC patterns.
He even got a kick out of starting his own pattern and asking me to complete it! (Kids love being the teacher too!)
If your child is really enjoying these patterning activities, why not encourage them to try creating some circular patterns with the natural objects like the one below?
Patterns and Nature Recommended Books
I went looking for some fantastic kids books that might support these activities at reading time and found some really fun ones!
The first two books are appropriate for preschoolers and kindergarteners. The last two can be read to kids of all ages – and have fantastic photos showing all kinds of different patterns found in nature – perfect to stimulate discussions and help make connections!
A-B-A-B-A A Book of Pattern Play (Math Is Categorical)
Teddy Bear Patterns (McGrath Math)
Follow One Time Through’s board Mathematical Kids on Pinterest.
Helen @ Peakle Pie says
This is a great idea – looking for patterns in nature is so cool! Thank you for joining in with the Cool Maths for Cool Kids series!
Sue Lively says
Thanks for dropping by Helen!