Valuable skills learnt from patterns and sorting

2011-09-22 00:00

WE may not realise it but almost every aspect of our life involves some form of using the skills to recognise patterns and to sort things.

Stop and think through your day quickly, think about the different tasks you perform throughout the day and how many of them do in fact involve these two simple skills.

We may, therefore, conclude that developing the skills to recognise patterns and sort items is a vital life skill. For our children, however, it is all the more important, as the process of learning to read and do number work involves complex use of these skills.

This is simply because letters placed within a certain pattern create words and number sequences change number meaning and results. Although the patterns in each word or number differ many of the basics do not. Take a look at the following example: “frog” and “friend” are different words, yet the “fr” sound is found in both.

In order to assist our children to develop these skills it is easy to incorporate patterns into our daily lives. Once you start looking you’ll see patterns everywhere. Most printed fabric has a pattern on it, look at flooring, tiling, butterflies, birds and leaves. Begin with recognising simple patterns and move on to more advanced patterning.

Here are some easy ideas to try at home

• Cut out some shapes. Begin laying down a pattern of square, circle, square, circle. Explain to your children that they need to continue the pattern. Then try different variations such as triangle, square, square, triangle. Later ask them to complete some on their own or create their own patterns. This can be done with pieces of pasta, repeated letters, pictures or numbers. • Look at floor patterns everywhere you go.

• Make crayon rubbings of floors, doors, walls and logs, and patterns will jump out at you from everywhere.

• Use the columns in an old telephone directory to draw patterns in.

• Create patterned borders for art work.

Along with creating and discovering patterns goes sorting. Sorting involves looking at similarities, differences and categorising. This is a very important skill for a child to develop. Ask a young child specifically to sort an item, such as: “Please pick up all the brown leaves.”

It is often very interesting to see how an older child categorises things him or herself. You may leave them with three boxes to sort their toys into. In your mind you assume they will create an animal box, a car box and block box. When you go back, however, you may find the toys sorted by size, colour or there may even be three boxes sorted into “new”, “old”, and “junk” toys. All these are correct and should be praised and encouraged. Never expect your child to do things exactly how you would do them.

Try to draw sorting skills into as many aspects of your life as possible

• Putting away hanging cutlery can now become your child’s job. They are not only sorting but developing their fine motor and hand-eye co-ordination as well. (This can also be a great help for mum.)

• Sorting socks, tidying toys into different boxes and sorting out the plastics cupboard can now all be done by your child.

• Sorting buttons into different colours and sizes is something children love to do.

• When it is tidy-up time, give each child the appropriate container and tell them they are to collect all the cars or the puzzles pieces.

Developing the skills to recognise patterns and sort will not only assist your child in the classroom but for life as well.

• Joanne Madgwick is a parenting and educational consultant. Find out more about her at www.susa


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