I’m kind of on a balloon kick lately, which is odd (I really hate the way they sound when they pop). But I’m finding that balloons offer a lot of hands on learning opportunities in fun and interesting ways. We have already used balloons to explain how air condenses when it is cold. And we recently used balloons to paint with the primary colors. And today, my preschooler and I worked on discovering patterns using balloons.
This was a fantastic preschooler activity that involved gross motor skills, color recognition, and pattern building. It was also simple to set up, and led to a fun “snowball fight” and other creative play afterwards.
Objective: To introduce preschool aged children to the concept that patterns are groups of things that repeat in the same order and to introduce both ABAB and ABCABC patterns types.
Materials: A lot of small, inflated balloons and a flannel blanket.
Reinforcement Activity: Patterns Activity sheet.
Directions: Start by showing the children how balloons will stick to the blanket. Let them have fun and try it out for a few minutes. (Save the conversation about static electricity for another time, unless asked.)
Now, create a pattern on the blanket. Name the colors as you are creating the pattern. Talk about how the colors repeat in a specific order. Reinforce this concept by creating a different pattern again, but this time asking the children what color of balloon should go on the blanket next. Continue asking until the pattern is complete.
Finally, let the children take turns building part of the pattern and having someone else finish the pattern.
We did this for both ABAB patterns and ABCABC patterns.
The children thought it was pretty amazing that the balloons would stick to the blanket and had a lot of fun running to the balloon box to get a balloon to stick to the blanket. I enjoyed naming the color of each balloon with the children. I got a little goofy and would name the wrong color sometimes. The children thought it was great fun to correct me. We giggled a lot.
When we were building the patterns we sometimes had to correct a pattern when it had been completed incorrectly. But this helped to reinforce the concept that patterns are a group of things that repeat in a specific order. I found it helpful to name the colors out loud together whenever we created a pattern, even when the children were creating a pattern for someone else to complete. The activity took about 30 minutes, from start to finish.
After we were done, the children asked if they could play with the balloons. What ensued was a “snowball fight” with the balloons. These balloons are really great conductors of static electricity, so we could “shoot” the balloon (by pulling on the tail and letting it go) and it would stick if it hit clothing. At one point one of the children had seven or eight balloons stuck to her clothes. I had balloons stuck by my ankles in both pant legs for about 30 minutes after the activity was over. This was a really fun way to introduce patterns, strengthen color recognition, and an activity we’ll be doing again.