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Patterns & Sequencing

Identifying patterns and sequences helps us logically order events, images, thoughts, and actions. By helping your child improve their identification of patterns and sequences, you can strengthen his or her conceptual and reasoning ability, concentration skills, and verbal, written, and mathematical foundations.

How to Help Your Child Identify Patterns

Children find patterns from looking around and noticing the things around them. A parent’s job is to recognize patterns and point them out, in clothes, on the sidewalk, and everywhere patterns are to be found.

A pattern is only a pattern if it is repeated more than once. The easiest patterns are those involving two colors or variables, such as red, blue, red, blue or ABAB. More complex patterns include ABCABC, or AABB.

Identifying Patterns in Your World

By taking the time to notice and identify patterns with your child, he or she will begin to see and identify them as well. Be on the lookout for some of these patterns as you go through your day:

  • Fabric used in clothing, such as stripes, prints, and plaid

  • Shoes have patterns on the sole, and make noticeable tracks when you walk through mud or snow

  • Nature provides patterns in flower petals, gardens, and animals

  • Dinner foods can be served in patterns

  • Grocery stores have patterns in foods, displays, and floor tiles

Create and Extend Patterns

As patterns become more complex, work with your child in order to extend the pattern, or create new ones. Examples include:

  • When serving small crackers or cereal that comes in multiple colors, ask your child to create a pattern with his or her food before eating it

  • Use blocks, Legos or other small toys to create patterns across the room

  • Use stickers or rubber stamps to make patterns on paper

  • Create movement patterns as you move across the back yard, down the street or through the park. For example, walk, walk, jump; walk, walk, jump.

Patterns are all around us, as are opportunities to teach your child more about them. The key to teaching this basic math skill is to make your child aware of patterns and give her opportunities to create and extend patterns in daily life. After just a bit of practice, you will be amazed at how often he’ll find patterns that you don’t even see.

How to Improve Your Child’s Sequencing Skills Sequencing is a fundamental skill that we use all day long. Whether it is going to the bathroom or reading a story, we need to use sequencing in a variety of daily activities. Helping children sequence can help them learn routines and develop key academic skills like reading comprehension and scientific inquiry.

Observe How Your Child Plays A child who has limited sequencing capacity might pick up a toy and then bang it, performing a two-step sequence. A child who can perform a three or four-step sequence might be able to figure out how a toy works by pressing buttons or spinning various dials. Children who are able to perform activities with even more steps are able to communicate through gestures and behavior to show adults what they want, figure out how complex toys work, and play with several toys interactively.

Use Games to Create More Steps for Your Child The robot game is an example of an engaging activity that involves extensive sequencing and communication skills. An adult can be the robot and follow the instructions given by the child very literally. For example, if the child were to order the robot to do a task such as make a jelly sandwich, the adult would have to follow the child’s command even if the direction is incomplete. If the child forgets to tell the robot to open the top of the jelly jar or put jelly in the middle of the sandwich, the adult could make humorous mistakes, prompting the child to use more specific instructions.

Speak the Sequencing Language Using words such as first, second, third, next, then, before, after, and finally with your child in discussions about daily activities can help them build their understanding. You can use and teach your child these words in everyday conversations. For example, if you’re waiting at a crosswalk with your child, you might say: “You see those cars waiting at the red light? The first car is blue, the second one is black, and the last one is red.” Many activities in daily life can provide opportunities to practice sequencing as well as vocabulary words.

Practice Sequencing Using Different Modalities Sequencing can be communicated in various ways, using words, pictures, music, and objects. Practicing sequencing with your child using various tools and modalities can advance his or her skills and engagement in learning. While one modality might be to use stories as models for how events occur in sequences, another might include songs that have repetitive structures and associated dance moves. Learning new modalities can encourage your child to practice sequencing while having fun.


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