What is a schema?

A schema is a pattern of repeated behaviour demonstrated by a young child in play.  By exploring and practicing schemas in their play, children become more knowledgeable about the world around them.  Children may try out the same action on a variety of different objects or a wide variety of actions on one object.  They come up with their own theories about how things work.  They continue to test out their theories or ideas.

Often children, who appear to be flitting from one activity to another, may in fact be exploring a particular idea or concept in some depth.  Equally, a child who repeatedly tips out all the toys in to a heap on the floor or who has a facination with playing with the taps in the bathroom may be exploring a schema.

At what age do schemas start?

Schemas begin from birth.  Initially schemas are very simple but they will develop rapidly if they are supported.  Research has shown that brain paths develop faster when connections are supported; schemas are a way of supporting children and extending their learning.

How do we know about schemas?

Schemas were first identified by Piaget, a childhood theorist; his work has since been further developed by the work of Chris Athey during the 1970's and more recently by Tina Bruce.  Additional research has now been undertaken about how children learn and how their brains develop.  Because schemas follow interests, children can develop high levels of concentration and learning through their connected play.

How does a schema work?

A child may have an area in which they are very interested, for example in transporting things.  This interest can then be seen in may different play situations that the child chooses to take part in.  For example, they might carry all the bricks from one place to another in a bag, they may gather up sand from the tray and take it to the home corner in a bucket or push a friend or other objects aroung in a toy pram or wheelbarrow.  In all these examples, the child is exploring different forms of transportation.  They are learning about how their interest works, they will repeat the actions over and over again until they understand about it.  It has been known for many years that we learn from doing, therefore, when a child is repeating an action they are learning and looking for other ways to explore their interest.

What schemas are there?

There are many schemas, many children will show a dominant schema by may have many schemas.  Many children enjoy repeating an activity but a child with a schema will show a definate way of behaviour.  Some of the more common schemas that we see here at Pre-school are:

Trajectory

The child will be interested in how things and themselves move.  It is very common, for example, babies love to drop things from their highchairs.  A child may like to throw things, carry sticks, push things in a straight line, run around or jump up and down, play with running water, dribble glue from a glue stick onto paper or line up toys.  Resources to provide include balls and beanbags, football goals, water play, musical instruments and runny glue craft activities.

Transporting

A child with this schema moves everything from place to place.  They may move objects continually.  A child may carry all the bricks from one place to another in a bag, the sand from the tray to the home corner in a bucket; push friends or objects around in a toy pram.  Children may choose to play with buggies, trucks, bags, wheelbarrows, buckets, etc.

Envelopment

Children with an envelopment schema love enveloping or covering themselves or other objects or space and it is related to the enclosure schema. The child may love to wrap everything, make parcels, cover their hands with soap as they wash or cover over a piece of paper completely as they paint.  They may like dressing up or building dens.  Activities include wrapping parcels, dressing up, role play with dolls etc and den building.

Enclosure

A child who exlpores the world through an enclosure schema will enjoy creating spaces which they may or may not put things or themselves into.  They will like putting things in pots, filling up boxes, drawing pictures and putting circles around them.  Children may enjoy playing in boxes, cupboards and dens.

Rotation

This is a child that loves to play with wheels.  They love anything that rotates or are circular.  They love wheels, spinning, watching the washing machine, turning knobs or taps.  Children will enjoy resources including cogs and wheels, kaliadascopes, spinning tops, wheeled toys and circle or spinning games.

Scattering

Children love to scatter objects i.e. tipping all their toys onto the floor.  They may use their arms or legs to scatter objects and may enjoy wiping off of a surface.  For children who have a scattering schema space and patience is essential!

Connection

A child with a connection schema may spend time joining the train tracks together, connect Lego bricks, create junk models or weave with string or wool, tying things together.  To support a child with a connection schema we provide train tracks, construction toys, sellotape for craft activities and string or wool for den building.

Positioning

A child may put things on their head, prefer their food on their plate to not touch, lie on the floor or under a table.

Transforming

A child may add juice to their mashed potato, sand to the water tray, enjoy adding colour to corn flour or making dough.




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