The 12 Patterns of the Holidays

This time of year is filled with holidays across several cultures.  One thing that many cultures have in common is:

holidays = food; family; fellowship/friendshipDSC_0992

With these gatherings comes a wonderful opportunity to teach our children many things, such as social skills, family traditions, following directions, responsibility, etc.  Food preparation is often the hub of such experiences.  Where there is food…. there are people.

If you have a school-aged child, you know all about patterns.  A fantastic way to integrate learning patterns into family fun time is to make kabobs.  Kabobs are a versatile entertaining finger food because there so many options to make them appealing, without excessive utensils.  They also allow for little fingers to help with the food preparations.

Here are 12 ways that you can integrate these traditions with some positive mental health skills building:

Kabob Pattern Core
Apple/Blueberry AB (represents Hanukah colors)
Strawberry/Blueberry/Blueberry ABB
Banana/Strawberry/Mini Marshmallow ABC (Santa’s hat)
Strawberry/Strawberry/Strawberry/Blueberry AAAB
Strawberry/Blueberry/Blueberry/Banana ABBC
Yellow Cheese/White Cheese AB
Yellow Cheese/Pepper Jack Cheese/Pepper Jack Cheese ABB
Red Pepper/Orange Pepper/Yellow Pepper ABC
Pepper/Mushroom/Mushroom/Tomato ABBC
Marshmallow/Strawberry AB
Marshmallow/Strawberry/Banana ABC
Strawberry/Pound Cake/Pound Cake ABB

Why should you bother to consider making kabobs in your family?  It is simple.  Food brings people together over non-controversial topics, if you are focused on the food’s preparation.  There are little steps within collaborative food preparation that naturally build strong attachments between family members and strengthen social skills.Santa Hat

When you give instructions to children, you should always look them in the eyes.  This often means you must stoop a little or ask them to look up at you.  Intentional eye contact is one of the key ingredients for healthy attachment, which builds a child’s resilience to life’s ups and downs.  Making good eye contact is also an importance social skill that will benefit your children as they enter adulthood and the workforce.

Another way attachment is strengthened when making a dish such as kabobs is that there is opportunity to collide hands, arms, and shoulders as you reach for the same item.  This is healthy, safe touch which often leads to laughter.  It’s possible to become hyper-focused on the pattern you are making.  When you and another person reach for a strawberry out of the same bowl, your hands run into each other and you are brought back to the awareness of others around you.  This incident also creates an opportunity to practice appropriate social skills.  Saying excuse me.  Negotiating turn taking. Saying thank you.  Problem solving if there is only one strawberry left in the bowl.  The horrors….DSC_1004

Direction following and responsibility may be targeted by how you set up the activity.  One option is to make a sample of what you want and ask your children to copy it.  In order to follow the directions, your children must exercise self-regulation.  Another option is to assign each child with a certain pattern and ask them to make a specific number of kabobs using the designated pattern core.  After a set number are made, switch the pattern core they are responsible for creating.  You could also use full-sized kabab skewers for some patterns and extra long toothpicks for others.  This requires your children to concentrate, forcing eye contact, communication skills, self-regulation, etc.

Happy pattern making!

Author: therapeuticjava

Jessica is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Play Therapist who works with women and children to address attachment breach and the effects of traumatic life experiences. Jessica is passionate about help others. This includes providing tools that can be used at home to support parents in their journey to raise healthy, joyful children. Jessica also strives to provide content that helps parents know they are not alone in the often challenging road called parenthood. Jessica's experience also includes helping women and children who have been marginalized obtain resources they need to healthy and supported in their community. To learn more about Jessica's counseling practice go to

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