How to Make Tessellations for Kids

by Marisa Hefflefinger
A simple checkerboard is an example of a tessellation.

A simple checkerboard is an example of a tessellation.

Hemera Technologies/ Images

Tessellations are designs created by repeatedly using one or two shapes that fit together perfectly, with no overlap and no empty space. Artist M.C. Escher was known for his elaborate tessellations, however any shape that meets together like identical puzzle pieces will work. Tessellations offer an exciting way for children to apply critical-thinking skills and experiment with art and math, using creativity to familiarize themselves with geometrical shapes and patterns.

Items you will need

  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Cardboard, foam board or card stock
  • Craft knife
Step 1

Show examples of tessellations. Most likely, children will not know what a tessellation is, so show examples to help them understand what they will be working with.

Step 2

Lightly sketch a square about the size you want your tessellation to be. Draw on cardboard, foam board or thick paper like card stock, using a ruler to make sure that all sides are of equal length. This box will act as a guideline for making the tessellation shape.

Step 3

Draw a simple triangle inside the box. Use a ruler to measure out the sides equally.

Step 4

Carefully cut out the shape using a craft knife, and then trace that shape as many times as the number of pieces you want. Cut out all pieces.

Step 5

Allow children to play with the shapes, fitting them together to make interesting designs. There is no set pattern in tessellations, so allow creativity to guide their work. Children should use the basic shape until they are capable of working with more detailed designs.

Step 6

Sketch another square while children are working with the triangles, but this time, measure the distance and draw a horizontal line across the exact middle of the box.

Step 7

Create a shape with more lines, such as a diamond, octagon or star. The top half of the design must be reflected on the bottom half to ensure a proper fit when used for a tessellation.

Step 8

Cut out the new shape as a pattern and, again, trace it as many times as the number of pieces you want to have available. Let children create a tessellation with this more detailed shape.

Tips & Warnings

  • Cut shapes from different colors of board or paper, or paint them, to make patterns more interesting.
  • There is no set size for tessellations, but the younger the child, the bigger the pieces should be for easier handling.
  • When children seem ready, make two shapes to use in tessellations. Create a star pattern and then draw a straight line from point to point. Cut out the star and the newly created triangles that fit between. Allow children to create designs using both the stars and the triangles.

About the Author

Writing since 2008, Marisa Hefflefinger's work has appeared on websites such as SuperGreenMe, Jennifer McColm and Character Odyssey. She holds a Bachelor of Science in English education and a Master of Arts in teaching literacy and language, and she is currently working on a Ph.D. in critical literacy and English education.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images