Saturday, February 15, 2014

Playing and Learning with Pattern Blocks...15 ways plus more

I have had my set of pattern blocks for over 20 years. It was one of the first resources I bought when I opened my first family daycare way back in 1991. This set is plastic and someday I may replace them with a wood set, but these have held the test of time. I have used them with my eldest daughter (now 25), with my family daycare, when babysitting, in our two larger daycares and preschool centres and now with my two youngest children. Definitely money worth spending as they provide so many learning opportunities.

What are pattern blocks? They are math manipulatives. Wikipedia's definition is HERE.

Here are some of the educational benefits of playing with pattern blocks for children. Within my work as an Early Childhood Educator over the past 25 years, I have used all of these many times as pattern blocks are an amazing resource:

1) Pattern blocks are just plain FUN! They are a wonderful form of creative expression when making beautiful patterns and designs.

1) Pattern blocks are fun to use for learning colours.
2) They are great for developing sorting skills by sorting shapes and colours.
3) Fine motor development is practiced when placing pieces in flat designs but pattern blocks are also fun to stack. Stacking also helps with hand eye coordination and takes a lot more concentration.

4) They are prefect for creating patterns and predicting which comes next.
5) They can be used for learning about same and different.

6) When learning about emotions a simple movement of a couple blocks changes a happy face to a mad face. You can build different faces and ask the children to tell you how that face feels, or you can ask a child to "show me a surprised face" and have them create that facial expression.

7) You can count the pieces (how many yellow shapes in your design?).

8) Pattern blocks also teach about different shapes. After playing with pattern blocks and discussing the differences in the shapes younger children may enjoy going for a walk, or looking around the house and counting how many hexagons (eg stop sign) or squares (eg window) they can find.

9) Older children can practice drawing shapes by tracing the shapes and spelling the names of each shape.
oops she missed the B in Rhombus
10) Children can recognize how shapes can work together to create other shapes. In the picture below the yellow Hexagon can be made by putting together 3 blue Rhombuses (or Rhombi), 2 red Trapezoids, or 6 green Equilateral Triangles...which also teaches about...

11) Fractions.

12) You can create whole new shapes like a Dodecagon (12 sides) from using many shapes together.

13) Older children can also extend the learning by researching what a polygon or a parallelogram is.

14) Pattern blocks are perfect for teaching symmetry. Lay a piece of masking tape out on a table. Have children create a design on one side and then recreate the identical mirror image pattern on the other side of the tape.

15) Pattern blocks can be helpful to extend learning in different areas. For example the yellow hexagon blocks can be used when learning about bees to make a bee hive. The small beige rhombuses work great to represent the bees. Now your busy bees can sing and dance around as they fly to flowers, collect nectar and return home to the hive to make their honey.
Perhaps you are learning about metamorphasis from a caterpillar to a butterfly. Both can be created from Pattern blocks.
Aayla's caterpillar wearing a party hat and has a stinger
Your interested but don't have any pattern blocks? There are many places you can buy pattern blocks from places like Learning Resources, Wintergreen, or Scholars Choice. (*I receive no compensation for mentioning these companies. I only offer them to make it easier for you to find your own pattern blocks if you so choose).

You can also print out paper blocks at home instead of buying your own. These paper patterns could be printed out and coloured in, or they could be printed out onto coloured construction paper (laminating them will ensure they last longer). Another fun idea would be to print them out on sticker sheets and cut them out to use to make sticker pictures; or a magnetic sheets for a magnetic game perfect for travel. Click HERE for your downloadable pattern block pages.
unknown source but an example of the printable pages above
Here is an example of what can be done with the printable pages above, if left white. When they are cut out and glued on paper they make very cool snowflakes.
You can get a full set of ABC printable pages from Confessions of a Homeschooler
Click Source to go to site to get download
and numbers
Click Source to go to site to get download
She also has a 7 page download for patterning (click source and its at the end of her post).
Jessica's corner of cyberspace has free printables. I especially love the owl. Click source below the owl to go to her page.
Looking for some more formal lessons? Click the pics below to go to the downloads for the approriate grade level.

Kids can also use this online game to design with pattern blocks if you don't have your own set (the help button explains how pieces can be turned around).

Another fun idea is to paint with pattern blocks. You can buy sets of stampers to use with large ink pads or paint. You can easily make your own set by sacrificing one of each of your own real pattern blocks and gluing each block onto an empty thread spool as a handle. They would just be smaller then the purchased sets, making them easily usable with regular sized ink pads.

What pattern block shapes can be made on a geoboard? Can you make all of them?
Sometimes poetry can help children remember which shape is called what. THIS LINK has poems for Sammy Square, Tracy Triangle, Robbie Rhombus, Tammy Trapezoid, and Honey Hexagon as well as Reggie Rectangle, Susie Circle and Ollie Oval.

So are you ready to give pattern blocks a try now? I think you will be glad you did.


  1. Hi! I found you on Serenity You. This is really neat. I think these would be so good for kids!

    1. Thank you for stopping by and so happy you enjoyed the post ;)

  2. Wow! Impressive gathering of resources here. My kids love pattern blocks so I was glad to see a post on several ways to use them. This broadens our range quite a bit. Thank you. (hopped by from 123h4me).

    1. I am so happy you found the ideas useful. My girls LoVe our pattern blocks and there are so many ideas they work for. Thanks for stopping by and have fun with your pattern blocks!


Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment! I love reading them, and visiting your blogs too :)