In almost every early years classroom there will be a few sets of pattern blocks. They need not be confined to school or nursery alone. Indeed, for their educational benefits, they are equally useful at home for pre-school children.
What are pattern blocks? Known as ‘mathematical manipulatives’, pattern blocks usually come in two sets.
Set 1 – This set is based around one piece, a green equilateral triangle. All the other shapes in he set can be formed by using the equilateral triangle. These shapes are:
Blue regular rhombus
Set 2 – This contains extra shapes which cannot be made using an equilateral triangle alone. These shapes are:
Beige small rhombus
Very young pre-schoolers will benefit by looking at colour and beginning to understand that there are different shapes in the world. As children grow there are more complex learning opportunities available. Some of the skills used and improved are:
Visual and spatial development
Shape and pattern recognition
Manipulation skills/fine motor skills
Understanding how shapes are formed
It may not seem immediately obvious how a pile of coloured shapes can encourage a child’s creativity, but the answer is simple. Most shapes and structures can be broken down into pattern block shapes. Think about how many triangles, squares, circles, rhomboids and trapezoids there are in one house. Reversing that process leads to building of houses, flowers, animals, pretty much anything a child can imagine. For examples of pattern block shape activities for suitable for pre-schoolers, follow this link.
Think about what type of pattern blocks are suitable to the home and to the child. Some people prefer plastic, but pattern blocks come in a variety of materials including wood, foam and even magnetic pieces. Consider if the pack comes with a play-mat or with activities to get a child started and help them learn to use the blocks.
Sets also come in differing sizes. Jumbo are great for floor activities or for children with lesser development in fine motor skills. Regular are great for almost everyone and mini size blocks can be popped into a rucksack for car trips and other outings.
Sorting, matching building, tracing, copying, pattern blocks are great for a number of uses. They are also a great tool for building social skills, especially co-operation, learning to share both blocks and ideas which can be a useful preparatory skill for nursery and school.
For more ideas about how to use pattern blocks and for pattern block resources, follow this link. For a look at a few pattern block sets, try here.