The Build-a-pic Tessellations set comes with an ample supply of wooden shapes which can be used to build patterns, tessellations and pictures.
To provide inspiration, and an early visual matching exercise, the set includes 8 existing pattern cards. These show illustrations of the geometric shapes arranged to create familiar images such as a flower, butterfly, fish and snail.
The pattern cards (also wooden) provide an early example of how the shapes interconnect and how they can be used to create representations of real objects or images. By using these patterns the child is able to engage in matching using the visual characteristics of colour and shape. Working with these cards also provides inspiration for the child to then engage in more creative extensions. The child's work with the pattern cards provides clear examples of how the individual shapes fit together and the child can these use this understanding to create new, unique patterns. The pattern cards also introduce the concept that individual shapes can be combined in various placements and patterns to represent memories or observations. Once the child is familiar with this concept he or she can then create endless variations and images!
The presentation of the activity is taken care of by the included wooden tray. The attractive tray is divided into two sections - one to house the pattern cards and the other to contain the small shapes. This provides an effective mode of storage and presentation.
At any stage the activity can be presented without the pattern cards, thus altering the focus of the activity. This is something I do in my own classroom for two quite different reasons...
Sometimes I will remove the cards if I have observed that a child is not advancing to the level of creating their own patterns. If this child has mastered and revised the 'matching' exercise without realising that they can inject their own unique creations then I will remove the cards, leaving only the shapes in the tray, as a 'point of interest' to encourage that child to start experimenting with creating their own patterns.
On other occasions I have removed the pattern cards so that younger children (2 year olds) can simply explore the shapes without the implied pressure of needing to complete the matching exercise. The wooden shapes provide a tactile experience for little hands which can feel the dimensions while also viewing the shapes. Sometimes these wooden pieces hold interest for a child who is not yet ready for the cognitive challenge of matching these to the corresponding 2-dimensional image on the picture card. For these children the focus becomes simply about exploring the shapes, and potentially about just experimenting with connecting a few pieces at a time to create abstract patterns.
Please note - if you are using these with a young toddler please be sensitive in which pieces, and how many, you present at a time. A younger child might be comfortable with just a few pieces at a time (perhaps presented separately in a basket). I would also recommend considering only providing the larger shapes first and removing some of the smaller ones (ie. the small green triangle, thin white diamond) which could be mouthed/swallowed.
The wooden geometric shapes can also be used for other activities, such as matching, sorting and tracing.
The latter (tracing) provides an absolutely fantastic extension for older children who enjoy creating their own tessellations. After the pattern is created with the wooden pieces the child can begin the extremely challenging but engaging task of taking one piece at a time and tracing it on paper to recreate an illustration of the pattern!