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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Perfect Square – collages to help kids develop pattern forming skills

We are all surrounded by all sorts of patterns. We make sense of our world by deciphering patterns. Our brains need to group everything we see, hear or touch and try to predict what's next. We are dealing with patterns  starting at a very young age. It could be in our routine, with rhythmic patterns in language, behavior of adults around us to mention only a few.

If I am asked to name the most important fundamental skill a child needs to master, it will be pattern recognition and forming. There are many different forms of patterns that a developing brain needs to learn. I am always looking for ways to help my son develop his abilities to work with any form of pattern. Recently I stumbled upon a book that deals with visual patterns in a very simple yet nuanced manner.

Perfect square by Michael Hall is a perfect book to form the basis of pattern forming and recognition for young kids. This book transforms a perfect square into beautiful objects, in the form of a collage. It then takes pattern forming one step further by creating a beautiful story using these seemingly random objects. A story after all is a pattern of events, characters and settings.
The biggest challenge with forming your own visual pattern is the enormous amount of possibilities. This book helps kids by starting with a square. But it soon unfolds how many wonderful things a simple square can turn into when arranged in different patterns. This also helps them condition their brain to deal with possibilities when working on a pattern recognition task. It would have been very difficult for my son or even for many adults to tell what shape any of the collages in this book started with, had they only seen the result.

My 3 year old son loved the book during our first reading. When I asked him if he would like to make the things in the book with a square, he was more than thrilled. Some collages required him to tear the paper randomly which he happily did. Some required cutting it a certain way which I helped him with. He exercised a lot of fine motor control and patience when he diligently stuck those little pieces of paper. He was trying to figure out the placement of individual object to form the entire story on his paper. All though he needed some help from in doing so, it was not bad for planning skills of a 3 year old. After this activity, my son can’t stop cutting paper and sticking it to form a new shape.
Visual pattern forming not only helps making art but is used by, architects, plastic surgeons and choreographers too.
So what will you like to transform a square into?