I admit that I was a little stumped this week on my toddler’s play tray, but I found some inspiration for a pattern-building tray on Instagram! I love that I can use this tray as a learning tool and as an open-ended invitation for my toddler to play independently.
Our Pattern-Making Loose Parts Tray Included
- Rainbow Counting Bears
- Popsicle Sticks
- Foam Heart Shapes
- Clothes Pins
My three-year-old and I have worked a little on patterns off and on without much success over the past several months, but with this tray, she finally started to get it! I think that it helped that I was using a variety of objects rather than just alternating the color bear/beads/whatever.
After a few demonstrations of an ABABAB pattern, she caught on and helped create patterns. She even went so far as to develop an ABCABC pattern! We played together as a family making various patterns for a while and then let her take these loose parts in her own direction.
One thing that I loved about this tray were the clothes pins! Manipulating them really helps strengthen my toddler’s hand muscles. Incorporating clothes pins in our patterns builds coordination and develops her fine motor skills.
Once my toddler was finished making patterns, she immediately added cars to the mix. She used popsicle sticks and clothes pins to create a race course, and had the bears and foam pieces available to fix cars that broke down. She played with the cars mostly independently for about 20-30 minutes.
In addition to the patterns and pretend play, here are some other fun ideas that could be incorporated with this tray.
- Challenge kids to make shapes or a picture with the objects.
- Create a mandala by making symmetrical circles and patterns.
- Build bridges for the bears to cross (great for STEM fans).
- Work on symmetry by having the child mirror the placement of items.