Children’s Creations of Islamic Designs

In my combined first and second grade, Arabic repeating mosaic designs that children made on graph paper were very popular. The whole class was first introduced to the process, and after that it was a popular Choice Time activity.

We began with ½” graph paper. In a block of four squares, a child would make a design with markers. Then, skipping one or more squares next to that, they would repeat the same square and design and continue across the page and making identical additional rows until the whole page was covered. When they felt the squares were complete, they would make some lines or designs in the blank squares connecting the decorated ones. Again, these lines and designs were identical. Sometimes a child might outline the four squares and repeat that square with the spaces across the page and continue the rows until the page was covered. Then they would go back and put one design in every square, returning to add additional identical designs in every square, and then connecting all the squares.

After being first introduced to the whole class, the youngest children had some difficulty carrying out their repetitive pattern but didn’t realize it. They just didn’t choose to make any more after that first one in the fall but were apt to design some later in the year. I’ve often thought how amazing children are when they choose to do the things they are capable of and just neglect to participate if it’s beyond them with no apparent discomfort. They just get involved in something else.

Graph paper was always available for future designs, and as time went on designs became more and more complex. Some would use 1” graph paper or ¼” graph paper, began their design with six squares or a rectangle, or just became far more elaborate with each additional design created. It was a very popular activity  because each child could participate at her own level.

The designs involved the concepts of patterning, symmetry, transformations, and geometric shapes.

See an illustration of the Islamic Designs and read about the math program in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on

   Teaching Young Children © Peggy Broadbent 2011 - All Rights Reserved