Making Patterns with Lego and Egg Cartons

Use egg cartons, homemade pattern cards and everyday toys to create some playful invitations to make patterns. Great for home or preschool with 3 year olds to school age children as a fun way to learn about pattern making, sequencing and matching by colour and shape!
As part of our new series about Playful Maths ideas for kids (in partnership with Learn with Play at Home), we have been looking at maths activities that can be done with everyday materials. Last week we had looked at measuring with egg cartons, using them to find ways to add up to 10 and even created weighing scales with them!

Egg cartons are also a fabulous tool for making patterns with as the holes lend themselves so nicely to being filled with small objects! We collected baskets of Lego Duplo, wooden beads and flat 2D shapes to begin making patterns with.
I drew some very simple pattern cards on white card, following the number of spaces that were in our large egg carton. I looked at the materials that we had gathered before I drew the patterns to make sure we had enough of the correct colours and shapes.

Some were extremely simple repeat patterns using just 2 colours or shapes, with others being a little more complex using 3 or more colours and shapes in combination. I set them out on the floor as an Invitation to Play with the pattern cards, and also some blank cards and pens in case they wanted to design there own, to extend the learning possibilities.

At first Cakie was really thrown by the fact that there were 2 rows in the carton, and that the pattern wasn’t always identical on both. I showed her that there were 2 rows in the pictures and how they corresponded to the box below, and then she understood how to place the items inside.

She was challenged by the wooden beads pattern card as there weren’t enough sphere shaped beads to complete the card. She had a look at all the shapes available (I put them all in so that she would have a further challenge of identifying the correct ones) and picked out the flat side of the cylinders as looking the same. This was quite creative problem solving!

When matching the shapes patterns we talked about the names of the shapes that she was finding and described a little about how they looked, using language such as “pointy corners”, “straight sides” and “flat edges” as we did so.

With the extra cards Cakie declared she was going to draw an ice cream shop, and that she did!

Extend this activity:

  • draw just the first 3 shapes/ colours in the pattern and ask them to predict and complete the pattern
  • can they find a new set of objects or toys from around the house to make patterns with? are there enough of each type to be able to repeat them in a pattern?
  • after making patterns can they draw what they did on strips of paper?
  • can they draw their own for a sibling or friend to copy?
What they are learning while they play:
Maths: copying, matching, sorting, making repeat patterns, sequencing, recognising and naming shapes, describing shapes by their properties, problem solving
Creativity and design: drawing shapes and patterns
Motor Skills: filling and emptying, pincer grasp
Cakie: 4.4
Pop: 2.10
Bean: 11 mos

Pop on over to Learn with Play at Home to see her incredible Egg Carton Dice Game that she is sharing today. Such a fun way to practise counting, adding and number recognition skills!

Join us both every Friday for our continuing series about Playful Maths ideas. Click the photo to see previous activities in the series. Start collecting your cardboard tubes for the next two weeks of activities too!

See more egg carton ideas!

Egg Carton Colour Sorting

Egg Carton Counting and Sorting

Egg Carton Toddler Discovery Box

Egg Carton Printing

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  1. says

    So far my little guy (will be 3 in April) isn’t into stuff like this at all, and the teacher in me wishes he was. Not because I’m worried he won’t get it, but because it’s fun! We’ll get there eventually I guess! I love the idea of using egg cartons.

  2. says

    Great idea – we are always trying to find new ways to use our egg cartons! I like it because it can be tweaked to whatever you have on hand (ie. legos, beads, foam).

  3. says

    Love your ideas. My son loves finding patterns and he would have loved using egg cartons and legos when he was younger. And I truly think that spotting patterns in the world around you IS the essence of math. Math is patterns!

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