You may think that children do lots of random things, however if we observe them closely we can notice many patterns in their play, called schemas. There is a pattern to each individual child’s behaviour, which they use to explore and understand the world.

The best simple description I found:

… pieces of thought… not like the pieces of a jigsaw, because they don’t fit in only one place. Perhaps the best metaphor is that schemas are like pieces of Lego which can be fitted
into lots of different structures—in this instance, the structures… [are] cognitive structures   (Anne Meade, 1995:2).

My schema research inspired me to look closely at children and how practitioners and parents approached children’s learning and development.
My aim is to enable adults to identify and understand what schemas are and how they can plan for and support children’s current patterns of play.
Children may have one very strong schema or a number of schemas called a cluster.

Examples of schemas (adapted from Stella Louis’s book “Again! Again! – understanding schemas in young children”)

Trajectory – an interest in how objects and people move, and how children can affect that movement (children often likes to run around, throw things, drop things, play with balls, jump, play with running water, building and pushing things in straight lines, draw straight lines)

Rotation – an interest in things which turn (children often play with wheeled toys, stir, mix, roll balls, play with round objects)

Enveloping – an interest in covering and wrapping up objects or themselves or in putting things inside bags, baskets and containers (children often hide objects, dress up, paint over pictures they created)

Enclosing – an interest in creating and/or occupying enclosed spaces. It can be seen in children’s actions as they create structures in which they sometimes enclose themselves or objects (children often play inside boxes, make dens under the table, hide toys underneath bed)

Connecting – an interest in fastening and joining things together and in taking them apart (children often join things using string or rope, use glue to stick things together, take toys apart, play with trains and tracks)

Positioning – an interest in carefully placing objects or themselves in patterns or rows (children often line-up toys, walk on lines, have their food laid out in a particular position or pattern)

Transporting – an interest in moving themselves around and in transporting objects (children often carry bags, push prams, play games that involve going on a journey, explore maps and different means of transport)

More schemas: orientation, core and radial, transforming, scattering, containing, going through a boundary.

You can encourage your children to play by becoming involved and interested in what they are doing. By encouraging them to play, you are encouraging them to learn.
The knowledge of schemas might help you to offer your child something different to play with – something which can be used to practice the same skill safely without causing you get irritated.
Be creative and look for books, songs, which also can extend your child’s pattern of play.

Schema song (by Peter Dixon):
Twinkle, Twinkle
Little splot
I’m into schemas such a lot
I’m into schemas
I’m into it all
The wrappings, the trappings
The rappings the falls
The trolleys with dollies
The binding the straps
The horizontal and vertical
The enclosures and flaps

More to come… 


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