Oh the things you can do with LEGO® bricks after the kids are done with their project and the pile of disjointed parts is lying in the middle of the room with no purpose. You can practice number sense and addition, sorting and measuring, alphabet and sound-symbol relationship, site words and science. Today I want to tell you how we use LEGO® bricks to practice patterns and symmetry.
“A mathematician, just like an artist or a poet, produces designs.” G. Hardy
Learning to understand patterns is the basis for understanding much of mathematics. And if you can help your kids develop mathematical thinking, while they are having fun, everyone wins. I’m sharing with you the mats I’ve been using with my own kids. We’ve been using them for a few years, yet when my 8-year old sees them he usually asks, “Can we do it again? It’s so much fun!” When you see weird shapes with zigzag lines, they were created specifically by the demand of my son, who enjoys that kind of challenge.
You can print them for free for your personal use here. If you have multiple children print out one set for each child. I have been asked more than once (and with our other printables) what’s the point of printing it out in color and what’s up with all the graphics in the header (or footer). In my experience it does make a huge difference for kids. They like using colorful things that are designed for kids.
And if you are wondering, why can’t we just use LEGO® mats for this activity and use colorful bricks for border, it’s because once my kids see them they start building their structures and have absolutely no desire to engage in any project I might have in store for them. (Pavlovian reflex in action, if you ask me).
Are you ready?
The first thing to do is to get all your LEGO® bricks that are not currently part of some messy (but very important nevertheless) project into one pile.
Pick out some similar pieces and line them up. Sorting, classifying, and ordering blocks is a great learning activity. I find that the best way to engage my kids in sorting is to simply start doing it. They always come over to see what I’m doing with “their” LEGO® bricks and start asking questions with one of them being “Can I, please, do this too?”
You can start by asking kids to create simple symmetrical patterns using grid as a basis. You might need to demonstrate what you mean. Then break your pattern and ask them to create their own.
To make it even more educational (and if your kids are responsive) you can throw in some questions: What is symmetry? Is your image symmetrical? How do you know?
Venture more into the realm of counting by asking: How many pieces did you use? Which brick has the most studs?
With older kids you can practice adding studs on all the blocks to find the total.
Then you can move on to creating a simple pattern. At first you create one half and ask the kids to copy it on the other side. This kind of symmetry is called a pattern symmetry. You can find it on frescoes, carpets, bridges and snakes. It’s characterized by a periodically recurring pattern. The focus is on recognizing patterns others have made and copying them.
You can ask questions or ask kids to describe the pattern as they copy it.
Now kids can move on to using their imagination to create their own patterns from start to finish. This is our favorite part.
Talk about what you see. You used symmetry in your building. You have put the same pieces on both sides. It is interesting the way you made the pattern with your blocks. What do you think? Oh, I see a skinny green brick, a bigger red one, then three tall bricks in a row… it makes for a pretty pattern.
Talk about recurring patterns like in borders and in heavy textile. You might even pull up some photos of Persian rugs for inspiration.
Now you can do the same activity practicing reflection symmetry. It’s also known as mirror symmetry because the image is not duplicated, but transposed, so the front becomes the back and the back becomes the front of the image.
Looking for more LEGO® ideas?
If you are looking for more LEGO® ideas, check out The Unofficial Guide to Learning with LEGO® out this week! Not only you will get 100+ Inspiring Ideas, but to celebrate the launch through July 12th you can also get over 100 Free Printables! You can buy the book as a print version and ebook.
From 5-12 July the ebook will be on sale (one week only!) for $11.95, regular price is $14.95. No coupon code is needed as the site itself will discount. You can buy it HERE. You can buy the print version of the book on amazon.
Disclaimer: LEGO® is a trademark of the LEGO Group of companies which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse this site. This post contains affiliate links. If you buy the book through my links, I will get a small commission through no additional cost to you. Thanks for supporting Kid Minds blog!