Our Spring Term Project is ‘Numbers, Shape, Colour and Pattern’!

Do you ever wonder why we put so much emphasis in the preschool years on teaching numbers, shape, colour and pattern? Why is this so important for young children?

So, let’s start by stating the fact that our world is literally made up of things that we can describe using numbers, shape, colour and pattern. That is what we see all around us and how we tell things apart from each other. They are a key way that we describe and categorize our world.

Verbal communication: Teaching children about these important things is a great way to give them some vocabulary for describing the world around them. This opens up new and exciting avenues for verbal communication.

Sorting and classifying: As children learn to identify colours, numbers, shapes and patterns they can sort and classify objects around them based on these attributes.

Letters and numbers: The written symbols we use for letters and numbers are really just shapes. As children develop proficiency at learning shapes such as squares and circles, they are developing the classification and visual discrimination skills to distinguish between ‘k’ and ‘x’ or between ‘3’ and ‘6.’

Learning numbers

It’s vital to lay secure foundations in early mathematics. We want young children to engage with numbers and to see how to use them in their everyday environment for labelling, quantifying and calculating: in other words, giving children the tools to help them to develop a better understanding of the world in which they live. Counting is a significant aspect of children’s early understanding of number and is the foundation on which quantifying and calculating are built.

The aim is to ensure that all children become competent counters and can operate comfortably within the expectations set by the practitioner drawing on the EYFS framework. We ensure that children experience high-quality teaching in two aspects of counting:

  • Number words and numerals – the ability to say number names in order
  • Counting sets – the ability to count objects, in order to find out how many there are in a set.

Throughout these two themes importance is given to children recognising, using and memorising patterns and structured arrangements through familiarity with and regular practice in counting. Patterns in number names, the rhymes and rhythms in sounds and visual links all play a part in learning mathematics.

  • Children need to hear, see, use and talk about numbers.
  • Number words, numerals, counting sets and pattern can have a place in all areas of learning.
  • Counting is a skill that enables children to engage with and enjoy other areas of learning; children who know why they are counting become better at counting
  • Counting rhymes, books and songs help children to develop their understanding of number and counting and to remember the patterns involved.
  • Children learn to recognise numbers through play and real-life experiences.
  • Children learning English as an additional language benefit from using number words and counting within their first language.
  • All children are entitled to rich and enjoyable learning experiences which are engaging, stimulating and fun.

Learning colours

Most children are unable to differentiate between colours until at least 18 months of age, which is also about the same time that they start to notice differences and similarities between textures, sizes, and shapes. However, it can take until age 3 before children can fully understand the difference between colours and name them.

Although naming colours is second nature to most adults, it is actually a cognitively complex task for young children. This is in part because the range of hues that count as a particular colour are not innate, nor are they universal among all cultures. In fact, different cultures and languages around the world vary in the number of distinct colours they recognize, from two colours to more than 20!

Teaching colours is best done through playful everyday life experiences. When developmentally ready, many children easily learn their colours as parents and nursery teachers point out the colour attributes of objects in the children’s environment (e.g., “Throw me the green ball” or “Do you want the red shirt or the yellow shirt?”)

You might also ask your child to match objects by colour. Or when doing artwork, make note of the colours they’ve chosen to use or ask them to name the colours in their drawing.

Colour treasure hunts, where the children gather as many objects as they can find of a certain colour, are always extremely popular and work well indoors and outside.

Colours sometimes give us information about health and safety. For example, we use red in our culture to indicate ‘danger’ or ‘stop,’ such as with traffic lights and red stop signs.

Colours can also tell us about our health. If a person’s skin has blue marks, it may mean they have suffered a bruise. If a person’s skin turns red, they may have spent too much time in the sun.

Teaching shapes

It takes most children a few months longer to grasp the concept of shapes than to grasp the concept of colour. However, by age 3 most children have developed an understanding of shape and can name several of the most common geometric shapes (e.g., circle, square, triangle).

When teaching shapes, we start with the most easily recognised; squares, triangles, circles, and rectangles, before introducing trickier shapes like diamonds/rhombuses, hexagons, and stars.

It is always best if shapes are looked at in organic ways, such as pointing out that a tyre is round like a circle, the television is shaped like a rectangle, and the slice of cheese they’re eating is shaped like a square.

Teaching Pattern

Patterns are arrangements of things that repeat in a logical way. Those arrangements of colours, shapes, gestures, sounds, images, and numbers are a crucial concept for young children and contributes heavily to their early mathematical understanding.

It’s never too early to introduce patterns to your little one. Patterns are a real and necessary maths skill for later in life, and it’s one toddlers and pre-schoolers can master early. Don’t be intimidated by teaching your little one big skills like this. It’s fun and they’ll pick it up eventually. You could start off by looking at the different patterns that can be seen on animals.

Patterns can also easily be introduced by playing fun games using Rhythm/Sound cards. The teacher claps, snaps, stomps or pats a pattern over and over and asks the children to join in. Discussions about how the pattern repeats can be brought in once the child recognises that a pattern is being followed and can start to understand how this will progress.

Patterns provide a sense of order in what might otherwise appear chaotic. Pattern is about seeing connections and making links…through understanding patterns, children learn to make predictions, to understand what comes next, to make logical connections, and to use reasoning skills ie children learn that after a bath they will put on clean clothes/pyjamas for example.

We can start our children looking at and making their own patterns with whole variety of objects;

  • things found in the natural world such as pine cones, leaves and flowers etc
  • household objects such as cutlery, straws, books, coloured pencils etc
  • nursery resources such as counting bears, colour tiles and pattern blocks.

Some children will be able to create their own simple patterns straight away, whilst others will need some help to start. Having some prompts available can often help those children begin.

We’re really looking forward to exploring the exciting world of numbers, shape, colour and pattern with the children this term. This project is particularly well supported by a wide range of dedicated Montessori resources, sensorial play, arts and crafts, and incorporates a whole wealth of children’s songs, stories and rhymes. If your child has any favourite songs or books from home that are connected to our project, please do let us know.

Try to talk to your child about the different shapes and colours, patterns and numbers of the objects you see together as you go about your day. You’ll be amazed at how quickly they start to recognise and use the descriptive words we use to classify our world!

So, to kick us off……we “heart” Chrysalis, and are looking forward to a bright and colourful term ahead!

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