The Little Engine That Could: Pattern Play

October 10, 2016

E is for Engine! This morning we reread one of our family favorites- The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. I love how this story promotes ideas of kindness and courage. Not to mention all the super fun onomatopoeia making it a perfect read aloud! To follow up the story I introduced MJ to patterns. She has had no other experience with patterns so this activity holds expectations of exposure only. We only worked on “AB” patterns. (i.e. red, blue, red, blue, red, blue…) 

To begin I set out a blue engine to mark the beginning of the train and explained each pattern piece would continue to the right. This is BIG for preschoolers. Learning that our language moves from left to right is a big concept!  It’s important to be patient with them about this. They will likely slip and try to go right to left. It’s ok, gently remind them we go left to right and continue on.

Next, I modeled for her a simple yellow, blue, yellow, blue pattern. We touched and called out each color together. When we got to the end of the pattern I stopped and let her guess what color came next. Her response was, “Red! It’s like pink!”  A perfectly normal response from a toddler. Of course the next color would be pink-like that’s her favorite color after all. I gently encouraged her that it was a good try but let’s look at the pattern again. I repeated myself exactly- touching each square and saying it’s color in a rhythmic pattern. Again she reached for the red. For a third time I repeated myself, maintaining a positive disposition and voice- I knew she would catch on, sometimes it just takes a few tries before things “click.” Finally, this time she called out, “yellow!!!” 

We practiced a few more patterns to help her get the hang of the idea. 

Just for fun I set out two colors and asked her to try and make a pattern on her own. This was not an expectation of the lesson but an opportunity for her to stretch and for me to see how much of the concept she had grasped. 

She was able to do a simple AB pattern with a visual example (the yellow and green squares) and a little help from me. We definitely need practice but this was a great first experience. When we were done I let her play with the squares how ever she desired. She loved getting to manipulate them into pictures, shapes, etc. 

Note: It’s always helpful to follow up a challenging type activity with something open ended and fun. She didn’t seem frustrated by today’s activity but I did repeat the directions more than I usually do. At this age and stage learning should always been positive and fun. If for some reason it is not or if someone begins to feel frustrated (whether that’s your little or you) that’s a good cue that it’s time to stop. Step back from that activity and turn it in to something fun. Open ended activities are perfect for those situations. If you ever have questions about feeling frustrated or your little feeling frustrated always feel free to connect with me through the contact page on the website! I’m happy to help! 

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