Pumpkin Pattern Necklace: Identifying patterns with your toddler

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Have you talked about patterns with your child yet? As it turns out, patterns play a significant role in how we learn mathematics.

Patterns are an essential building block to a child learning other mathematical concepts. This experiment lays out how to identify patterns, find the next step in a pattern, and show that patterns can look different than one another.

This is a fun experiment to learn math plus stay engaged by working on something creative. Not only that, but it’s a great fine motor skill activity!

How to make the Pumpkin Pattern Necklace math experiment

Supplies you will need

For the Pumpkin Pattern Necklace experiment, you’ll need the following:

  • Fall-inspired beadsOpens in a new tab.
  • TwineOpens in a new tab. or stringOpens in a new tab.
  • Scissors
  • Optional: tape (if your twine falls apart where you are threading beads, use the tape to keep it together)
Supplies for Pumpkin Patterns math experiment

Before you start

The beads we chose can easily fit into a child’s mouth. If you have younger kids around (or if your preschooler is prone to putting things in their mouth), keep a watchful eye.

Instructions

Here is how to do the Pumpkin Pattern Necklace experiment with your toddler:

Step 1: Lay out the pattern and explain it

Laying out the patterns

The complexity of the pattern all depends on where your child is with their knowledge of patterns.

Start the experiment with doing a basic pattern, like pumpkin-color-pumpkin-color. Have your child see if they can continue the pattern. If they can, move on to more complex patterns.

To make it easier for step 3, lay out your pattern so they have a reference as to what the pattern looks like and what comes next in the sequence.

Get your preschooler involved: After you decide on how complex or basic the pattern should be, have your child pick out what beads will be involved in their necklace!

Step 2: Measure the string to make the necklace

Cut the string or twine to fit your child

You will want to make a necklace long enough that they can easily take it on and off since we are simply tying a knot to finish off the necklace.

Step 3: Start adding beads

Add on the beads to finish the necklace

Here’s the fun part! It’s time to start making our pattern necklace.

Refer back to step 1, when I suggested laying out the pattern on the table before beginning this step. It will be helpful for your child to have something to reference when building the pattern.

You will want to really talk through the pattern when picking out each bead for the necklace. Let your child do the majority of the work here: ask them which bead comes next in the sequence and, if they start to get overwhelmed, talk through the pattern once more.

Here is where the optional tape comes in: if you are using twine and it’s coming apart on the end, use a piece of tape to tape around the end of the twine. Make it tight enough that it can still fit through the beads!

Get your preschooler involved: Let them do the majority of the work! Have them pick out the bead that comes next, and, if their fine motor skills are developed enough, have them add the beads to the string.

Step 4: Tie off the string to finish necklace

Tie off the end of the necklace

Tie a simple knot at the end of the necklace and allow your child to start wearing their pumpkin pattern necklace right away!

The math behind the Pumpkin Pattern Necklace experiment

The Pumpkin Pattern Necklace experiment teaches:

  • Identifying a pattern
  • How to figure out the next step in the pattern
  • Not all patterns have the same sequence

How it works

Research shows that teaching children how to identify patterns can significantly impact how they learn mathematics.

Further, repeating patterning skills predicted later math knowledge even after controlling for prior math knowledge. Thus, although repeating patterning and spatial skills are related, repeating patterning skills are a unique predictor of math knowledge and growth.

Rittle-Johnson et al., 2018

Finding patterns in activities is an easy project to do with your child, and even more, engaging for them when you add a creative aspect (like making a necklace!).

Identifying a pattern

Before adding the beads to your twine, you should plan out a pattern on the table. Lay out all of the beads and start establishing the pattern with your child.

Should it be a pumpkin-black bead-pumpkin-black bead, and so on? Or should we use more colors like pumpkin-orange bead-black bead-pumpkin?

Showing your child different examples of patterns will help them understand what a pattern is and how to identify patterns in everyday objects.

How to identify the next step in the pattern

Once you have established a pattern, spend some time having them identify which bead comes next in the pattern. Starting with a simple pattern, like pumpkin-color bead-pumpkin will help boost their confidence before adding in more.

If your child gets frustrated, don’t fret! Just talk them through what the pattern looks like and do a few examples together.

Not all patterns have the same sequence

After establishing the pattern and figuring out the next step in the pattern, you can show your child that patterns can look different. Some patterns have 2 in the sequence, some have 3, and so on.

It’s important that your child knows there is not just one type of pattern out there, but patterns can look very different than each other!

If that is overwhelming for your child, then you could build up the first pattern necklace and then talk about different patterns after. If you have enough beads, you could even build a necklace with a different pattern.

More math experiments to try out with your child

FAQ about the Pumpkin Pattern Necklace experiment

What pattern should I start off with?

My recommendation is to start with a very simple pattern, like pumpkin-color bead-pumpkin-color bead. That will help your child to understand the concept of patterns before moving on to more complex patterns.

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