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Frustration-Free Pattern Block Play

Pattern blocks are fabulous math manipulatives. Here is the secret to making BIG pattern block scenes – frustration free pattern block play is so much fun!

creating giant pattern block scenes

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I love pattern blocks – they are one of my all-time favorite toys! Which is saying a lot, because I tend to get as excited about toys as my kids!

One way in which they sometimes frustrate my kids, though, is that they will be in the middle of building some huge, complex structure when they bump a piece and all the other pieces shift, too. I had considered buying magnetic pattern blocks, but they still have this issue to some degree – and they are much more expensive.

Then I saw this Sticky Table Art post at No Time For Flashcards, and I had my solution!

giant pattern block scenes

We taped a large sheet of contact paper (sticky side up) to the floor, and the kids went to town! I had intended to use painter’s tape to attach it to the table, but the painter’s tape cleverly donned an invisibility cloak so that I couldn’t see it sitting right in front of me, so we used plain old scotch tape on the rug instead.

giant pattern block scenes

This was so much fun!!! Our babysitter even got into it, helping the kids create this elaborate ship scene (with a red fish under the water)!

I love that this method allows the kids to work together to create scenes, and that they can stick their pieces on and know that they aren’t going anywhere. They also get some great fine motor skills practice pulling pieces off of the sticky paper!

Do your kids play with pattern blocks? Another non-traditional way we love to use them is with play dough!

Next up: pattern block mosaic wall art. Seriously awesome!

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MaryAnne lives in Silicon Valley with her Stanford professor husband Mike and their four children. She writes about parenting through education, creativity, and play. Mama Smiles - Joyful Parenting is a space to share crafts, hands on learning activities, and family outings that enrich lives and bring families together.

21 thoughts on “Frustration-Free Pattern Block Play”

  1. I need to get ours out again. Currently they’re hidden away somewhere because my kids tend to have problems with free play on things that have multiple pieces.

  2. We have magnetic pattern blocks and patterns, but I have never once thought of just creating designs without the pattern cards. They do still bump, but as long as we have them I think we’ll try this. It’s a wonderful idea!

  3. I an going to buy these with your link!

    We have played with them from the library and my daughter was just talking about how she want to get some. I am a pretty frugal person but when it comes such a classic toy with such educational value I don’t hesitate!

    Get tip with the sticky paper!

  4. This is a great idea! I wish I had know this idea when I was teaching first grade. I’m going to share this with my daughter in law, an art teacher. She uses pattern blocks and the children so want their creations to stay put! Thanks for being brilliant!

  5. Crystal @ Growing A Jeweled Rose

    I love this idea. I have been meaning to get some pattern blocks. Thanks for reminding me of how wonderful they are. Also, thanks for sharing this with us at Tuesday Tots! We hope you will come by next week as well :)

    1. Contact paper was originally designed as shelf liner, I believe. It’s sticky on one side and glossy/matte on the other. You can buy it clear or in various patterns. Some libraries use it to protect the covers of their paperback books. Amazon sells it (https://www.amazon.com/mn/search/?_encoding=UTF8&x=0&tag=thrcramam-20&linkCode=ur2&y=0&camp=1789&creative=390957&field-keywords=contact%20paper&url=search-alias%3Daps), and I’ve found it in Staples.

      I like to use the clear matte contact paper. Besides this project, we have used it to “laminate” fall leaves (https://www.mamasmiles.com/saving-fall-leaves/), and to make sun catchers (https://www.mamasmiles.com/sun-catcher/). Sometimes I let my kids draw on the non-sticky side, and then we attach it on the wall to create an “I drew on the walls” effect without actually damaging the paint, like this: https://www.mamasmiles.com/non-permanent-wall-decor/. You can leave contact paper up for months (probably years), and it will still come off most painted surfaces without any trouble.

  6. Grumpy Grateful Mom

    We have some magnets like this, though not so many. They came with design cards. Then, my kids would try to fill in the design. But I like that your kids are coming up with their own designs. Using contact paper was brilliant!

  7. Yeah – that is the solution – now T will no longer be able to crawl off with pieces of wooden block hidden as they will stick to the sticky back plastic.

    Thank you for linking up to Tuesday tots and look forward to seeing you next week.

  8. Wow, that is a very cool idea! I think that brings a whole new aspect to pattern blocks… even if kids are bored of them, add some contact paper and you have a new toy! Thanks for the idea!

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