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Foam Shape Patterns

Sweet Pea is 45 months old.

From: I was inspired by pictures of Foam Shape Puzzles and a Mystery Pattern Blocks game in Erica’s Logical Thinking post at ABC and 123.  I thought that the cheap foam shapes would be perfect for a patterning activity.



  • Cut each piece of paper into 4 strips.
  • Take several handfuls of shapes and separate them by color and/or shape.

  • Lay foam shapes across one of the paper strips in a pattern.    Make sure you have enough shapes to cover the entire strip of paper.
  • Stick the first half of the foam shapes to the strip.  Remove the remaining foam shapes to a basket.
  • Repeat with the remaining foam shapes and paper strips.  Use a variety of patterns (ABAB, AABAAB, ABCABC, etc) depending on your tot’s age.

  • Present your tot with one of the pattern strips and the basket of foam shapes.
  • Explain that you want your tot to complete the pattern.  Say something like, “This pattern has an orange square, then a blue square, then orange, then blue.  What do  you think comes next?”
  • When your tot gives the correct answer, invite her to search the basket for the correct shape and allow her to place it in the correct place on the strip.

  • When your tot reaches the end of the strip, congratulate her on finishing and ask if she would like to choose the next pattern.
  • Repeat until your tot is ready to quit or you run out of strips.

Observations: I had high hopes for this activity, and it started well, but Sweet Pea quickly grew tired of it.    She did 2 strips with an ABAB pattern without help and then said she was done.  She had more fun trying to wear the strips than creating them.

I thought maybe the ABAB patterns were just too easy for her, so I asked her if she wanted to try a harder one.  I showed her the most complicated pattern I had created, but it seemed to be _too_ hard.  She only finished it by asking me, “Which piece goes next?” a couple of times.  After we were done, she announced that she wanted to do something else.

I wouldn’t call this a disaster, but it certainly didn’t hold her attention for more than a few minutes.  I can’t figure out why this activity didn’t go well for us.   Maybe I will try the more complicated strips again in a few weeks.

I would recommend this activity if you have a bunch of extra foam shapes around or if your tot is especially interested in patterning.

Notes from the Trenches: Creating the pattern strips was much harder than I thought it would be.  The tub of shapes I bought seemed to be full of  yellow squares and rectangles, but not much else.  I had trouble finding enough different shapes and colors to start my pattern while reserving enough for her to complete it.  Make sure you have all the shapes you need to do an entire strip before you actually start sticking the pieces down!

I tried to set this activity up so that it could be reused.  I stuck half the foam shapes down and Sweet Pea was supposed to just place the rest of the foam pieces along the strip in the correct place. However, as soon as she realized that the first few shapes were stuck to the paper, she wanted to know how she could get her shapes to stick too.  I told her that they were not sticky and she was just supposed to lay them on the paper.  She contemplated the problem briefly and then said, “I need glue.”  I gave up on trying to dissuade her  and just showed her how to peel off the backing.  At least that is good fine motor control, right?

Rating: 1 Stars * (Independent)

Carnivals: This post is linked to Delicious Ambiguity’s Tot Tuesday #40 and One Hook Wonder’s Montessori Monday.  Visit these site to see some other great ideas for your tots.


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