In The Schema Things

Schemas are patterns of repeatable behaviour, persistent actions or compulsions which can often be noticed in young children's play. A schema can be demonstrated through a child's actions, language, drawings, 3D modelling, movement, speech or play. Schemas indicate the childs focus in an activity. Not every child has strong schemas, some children may only display schematic play for a short period of time before moving onto another schema or some children may never display schematic play.

Some easily identifiable schemas are:

For example- carrying objects from one place to another; pushing a friend around in a toy pram; filling shopping bags, buggies, trailers etc.

For example- covering themselves in a flannel when washing; wrapping dolls and toys up in blankets and fabric; covering their painting with one colour; exploring under and inside; filling bags up;  dressing up; burying things; going inside tents, tunnels, and play house; writing letters- folding and using envelopes;  filling containers with sand and water; den building. This focus can be used to develop understanding of space, size, volume and capacity.

Enclosure/containing-A child may put their thumb in and out of their mouth;  fill up and empty containers of all kinds;  climb into large boxes; sit in the tunnel; build 'cages' with blocks.

Trajectory;Diagonal/vertical/horizontal- A child may gaze at your face; drop things from their cot; make arcs in their spilt food with their hand; play with the running water in the bathroom; climb up and jump off furniture; line up the cars; bounce and kick balls; throwing and throwing games.  Children interested in trajectories enjoy very active learning- they run / climb / jump/ enjoy throwing and kicking balls. Children often enjoy work with pulleys and playing ball games. They are often interested in woodwork or percussion or fascinated by rockets and enjoy learning about planets and space.

Rotation- Some children are fascinated by things that go round- the spinning washing machine; anything with wheels; rolling down a hill; enjoy spinning round or being swung around. They play with wheeled toys, play with water wheels, enjoy hoops,balls, spinning tops and often ride round and round the play area in the garden.  They may enjoy kaleidoscopes. A child may distribute and collect objects to and from a person or place; spend time joining the train tracks together; stick masking tape from across form the table to the chair; enjoy woodwork, tubes and funnels in water play; kites, and pull along toys. Children develop technology skills, managing tools, and estimating size and space. Conceps of cause and effect, time and sequencing are developed.

Positioning- A child may put things on their head; prefer their custard next to their sponge not over it; lie on the floor or under the table. This schema is often associated with "enveloping". Children fill bags, prams, wheelbarrows,(enveloping) then transport them to another part of the room. They may describe their play as "going on holiday" or " having a pinic".

Transforming- A child may add juice to their mashed potato; sand to the water tray; enjoy adding colour to cornflour or making dough.

"Girls are so much more likely to show enclosing and enveloping schemas; strong trajectory schemas seem to be far more often displayed by boys. Taking anatomy into account, perhaps this is hardly surprising. Does this go a little way towards explaining how determined boys and girls sometimes are to play with "boys" and "girls" toys? Is this why it feels like a losing battle to encourage boys to use the home corner (so full of enclosing and enveloping play), and to make sure the often uninterested girls get their fair share of the trajectory bikes? " Rosemary Roberts

Once you know your child's schema, you can use that knowledge to select activities and experiences which will engage and challenge them.

Here are some great links to more, in depth (and intellectual!) information on schema.
A useful PDF on developing play in different areas through schema
Ideas for developing schema

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