One thing that children do best is play. Playing is one of those automatic functions that’s built into us from birth; allowing us to develop as individuals, and carve out our own identities.
Chase is almost 18months now, and since his 1st birthday it’s almost like a switch was flipped inside of him changing the way he plays and interacts with things. I’ve noticed more and more that he will always follow a certain pattern with his playing, no matter where or what he’s playing with. Even in an unfamiliar environment, he will still follow the same routine.
I recently came across the term “Schema”, and immediately set about to find out more about it, and how I could use it to further develop Chase’s learning opportunities.
What is a Schema?
A Schema is a word used to describe children’s patterns of play, and refers to the developmental urges that children have to do things such as climbing, building and moving things from one place to another.
They appear during playtime, and can usually be spotted through repeated behavior for certain activities. This important stage of their development is caused by specific needs or urges that emerge from their bodies, and in turn, forms connections with their brain for them to follow.
By recognising these urges, we can better understand why our children want to do certain things, particularly ones which we don’t understand ourselves. But it also enables us to support their learning and development by planning better playtime experiences that match their personal pattern of play.
More about specific Schemas…
In order to see which pattern of play your child follows, we need to understand more about the different Schemas. Sometimes these Schemas can appear one at a time throughout your child’s developmental stages, and other times they may go through more than one at a time. Usually they tend to become more noticeable shortly after your child’s first birthday, but as with anything relating to children, this is not an exact science!
The urge to transport things, or themselves from one place to another. Such as moving objects from place to place, and collecting lots of items at one time either in their hands, containers, or something with wheels that they can push around.
A fascination with the path of a moving object. So throwing, dropping, pouring and other actions that cause movement of something in a diagonal, vertical or horizontal direction. Exploring this Schema involves experiencing space, and how movement occurs within it.
The urge to cover and hide either themselves or other things, or getting into boxes and other small spaces. This Schema opens up a world of mystery, exploring how they or items can fit inside other objects.
Anything that goes around something in a rotation, such as wheels, being spun or swung on an object, watching the washing machine go round or even drawing circles and round scribbles.
The idea of transforming something from one state to another; such as mixing different foods or substances together, squeezing berries to watch them turn to mush, or seeing changes in consistency when wet or dry.
Basically building and joining things. Whether it be building blocks, stacking cups, fixing train tracks together, or lining things up in a row. These are all signs of the Connecting Schema; as well as disconnecting or knocking down things they (or someone else) have just built.
The positioning of oneself or an object in a particular way or order. This can been seen in many ways; such as the need to separate food. e.g. keeping sauces on the side of their food, not on it. Having toys lined up in a particular order, or placing things in a specific place or position.
The desire to get a view from a different angle – say on top or underneath something, or by hanging upside down. Seeing things from different perspectives like this encourages both cognitive and physical development.
How can knowing about schemas help me?
As a parent, knowing and understanding what these urges are can help us in supporting our children’s development.
By observing your child’s playtime, you can start to pick out patterns in what they’re doing, and subsequently establish their own methods of learning new skills. This in turn, allows you to further support your child’s learning by offering them the resources and experiences that will channel their urges, and motivate them to explore further at their own pace.
Remember, it’s not about the action itself, but the desire to fulfill the urge they have that drives children to do certain things. Sometimes these urges will come through in ways that we as adults may deem as inappropriate behavior – such as throwing something to the floor, or climbing on top of the dining table.
So by learning which Schemas your child tends to follow, you can recognise the urges as they’re playing and redirect them into a more suitable (or safer) outlet. For instance, throwing balls in the garden, climbing an activity frame, or playing with a water table rather than pouring their juice onto the floor!
Does your child follow a particular schema? Or perhaps a combination of a few? have you found any activities which help redirect an urge? leave me a comment below!
Disclaimer: The views and photos in this post are 100% my own. I am not a childcare professional, and therefore any advice on this page is solely for reference based on my own research and opinions. All external links are provided for your convenience, and do not mean that I endorse the page or product that I am linking to. I do not work for any of the brands referred to in my post, and at the time of writing this post, am not affiliated with them in any way. This page does however contain some affiliate links.