My five year old loves making repeated patterns with colors and shapes, and so I recently decided to use this interest as a springboard for introducing her to symmetry. Children tend to instinctively look for order and balance in their world, often arranging toys and belongings in rows or patterns. Learning about symmetry builds on this instinct whilst helping children learn to sort and classify, and recognize and form patterns.
Shape Symmetry Activity
You will need:
- Self-adhesive foam shapes
- Fold a piece of paper in half.
- Add a simple collection of shapes to one side of your paper fold (see photos for examples). Make sure that you have an identical set of shapes available for your child to copy your design. Repeat to create a couple of different designs, each on a separate piece of paper.
- For children who have no experience with symmetry, explain that symmetry is like a mirror image – that when an object is folded or cut into two equal parts that these two parts or halves match, they are identical or symmetrical. You might like to print the butterfly image below as an example (click on the image to download and print). Fold the printed butterfly page in half vertically to demonstrate that the butterfly is symmetrical.
- Invite your child to look for other objects around the room that might be symmetrical. Ask them also to show you some objects that they think are not symmetrical.
- Take a piece of paper and fold it down the center. Model creating a symmetrical design by opening the paper back up and placing a simple sequence of single craft foam shapes along the left-hand side of the fold, naming the shapes and colors as you go. Invite your child to match the shapes from their own set of craft foam shapes, by placing them on the right-hand side of the fold. Show them that the design you have made together is symmetrical.
- Next, invite your child to complete the matching on one of your pre-made shape designs.
As they work, support your child’s learning further by talking with them about the shapes and colors they are using.
My daughter enjoyed this activity so much that we have repeated it over and over since I introduced it. I make the designs for her to replicate a little trickier and more abstract each time.
You might even like to invite your child to create a design of their own and then have a sibling or friend replicate.
Christie Burnett is the teacher, author, and blogger behind the playful online space known as Childhood 101. Christie’s passion for play and creativity led her to start her award-winning blog shortly after the birth of her first daughter. Nowadays she can typically be found juggling the demands of family life with time tapping away at her keyboard, at least when she hasn’t just dropped it all to join her daughters in whatever their latest game or project might be! Connect with Christie on her blog or via Facebook.