The Power Of Schemas For Playful Learning

The Fascinating World Of Schemas 

Schemas are defined as repeated behaviours that take us on a journey through a child’s mind. We learn about their curiosities, fascinations, and the excitement they are drawn to. They make choices based on their unique personality traits and the more opportunities they are given to lead their own play, the more they learn through hands-on experiences.  

When we, as childcare practitioners observe them, we can use our observations of repeated behaviour to plan children’s next steps. Noticing how they choose to play, allows us to make links, so for example, where rotation is seen, we can explore circles in many different forms which will allow the child to learn about one thing in many different contexts.  

In this article, I will dive deep into the world of schemas and how we can use them to support children’s play, learning and development. 

Rotation For Schemas

Finding a new angle and pace to see the world from; exploring circular motions and shapes which signify smooth, overlapping lines.  

What you may see  

  • Spinning in circles (objects or themselves). 
  • Fascination with drawing circles / circular-shaped objects.  
  • Enjoyment from riding on spinning apparatus. 
  • Children spinning love to see the world from a different angle and enjoy the adrenaline feeling that comes from moving very fast.  

Ideas for planning 

  • Large-scale mark-making in the garden. 
  • Creating shapes from loose parts including spirals.  
  • Spinning objects such as bangles, skipping ropes and whisking during baking. 
  • Turning circles into a letter or number. 

Transportation For Schemas

Children take objects from one place to another; being active in their play and use a range of contexts to determine the direction of their play.  

What you may see 

  • Filling up buckets/bags and carrying them around during role-play. 
  • Enjoyment from ride-on vehicles and toys / using them to move sand or other materials from one place to another.  
  • Pushing a buggy, collecting sticks in a wheelbarrow, and emptying it elsewhere 

Ideas for planning 

  • Heavy and light discussions  
  • Outdoor play areas with various-sized containers and vehicles 
  • Different types of vehicles accessible, of various sizes  
  • Scoops and other hand-held tools to develop hand-eye coordination  
  • Packing and travelling ‘going on holiday’ role play. 
  • Lining up chairs and pretending to travel on public transport. 
  • Gardening jobs involving finding the different components for planting. 

Scattering For Schemas

Children may get a sense of being wild and free and be curious to find out what the effects of their actions.  

What you may see 

  • Babies repeatedly throwing things on the floor from their high chair 
  • Toys being emptied out  
  • Children’s artwork full of randomly placed marks 
  • Sensory materials being dispersed around them. 

Ideas for planning 

  • Watering cans and other utensils such as sieves/colanders for sprinkling  
  • Spray bottles and squirty toys 
  • Yoyos, bouncy balls and objects that make a noise when thrown – e.g. bangles, a big dice. 
  • Adding ingredients to mixtures 
  • Sensory bottles that make various sounds. 

Enveloping For Schemas

What you may see 

  • Creating cosy corners  
  • Wrapping themselves up with blankets 
  • Putting objects into various-sized spaces 
  • Enclosed space exploration using their whole body/creating cosy corners 

Ideas for planning 

  • Wrapping paper, tape, and objects  
  • Various-sized objects and spaces to explore shape, space and measure 
  • Blankets, pillows, and dolls  
  • Den making materials 
  • Tunnels and small spaces for hide-and-seek 

We have covered plenty of inspirational ideas for those working in the early years, that can be used within our setting’s daily planning. There is always an in-depth explanation as to why children are observed frequently playing in the same ways. Schemas provide us with an insight into how a child’s mind works, therefore we can plan accordingly and encourage their fascinations to be explored further. 

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