In the first two years of life and early childhood, children develop repeated patterns of behavior called schemas. These patterns help them explore and learn about the world. They learn best by doing things themselves and learning from those experiences.
When kids repeatedly do certain things, they begin to understand how objects work and how they can use them. By playing in a repetitive way, they can figure out how to solve problems, ask questions, make predictions, imagine things, guess, and make choices in areas they know. Schemas are super important for children because they help them understand what they’re experiencing and build a foundation for future learning.
Most common schemas and How we can support them:
- Transportation schema: Children who enjoy moving objects from one place to another can be supported by giving them toys that are easy to move, like balls or toy cars. They may carry objects in their hands or pockets, or put them in containers like buckets, trolleys, wheelbarrows, or bags, and then place them in piles around the nursery. We can support this schema by providing materials that are easy to move, like balls or toy cars.
- Enveloping schema: Children who enjoy this schema like to cover or hide things. They may dress up in hats, scarves, necklaces, and bangles, or create a den under a blanket or piece of furniture. They might put little things they find around the room in a bag, paint or glue their hands, and then peel it off, or paint over a picture with a single color. They might also wrap things in paper or other materials. We can help children explore this schema by providing materials like fabric scraps or boxes that can be used for wrapping and hiding.
- Rotation schema: Children who enjoy this schema often like to spin objects or themselves around. They may turn or rotate objects or themselves, and they may spin, twist, roll, and turn objects or their own bodies. Children with a rotational schema are often full of energy, playing games such as running and spinning in circles, riding bikes around and around, and twisting ribbons, scarves, and ropes. We can support this schema by providing materials such as tops or swings that can be used for spinning.
- Trajectory schema: Children develop patterns of movement where they move their arms, legs, and bodies in straight lines, either up and down or side to side. Examples include pushing and kicking objects (going horizontally) and dropping objects or putting them in and out of containers (going vertically). Later, they explore straight lines (up, down, or side to side). Babies can be seen reaching out for objects, kicking their legs, and opening and closing their hands. Children who are exploring this schema often enjoy throwing or watching objects move through space. We can support this schema by providing materials such as balls, Frisbees, or paper airplanes that can be thrown or launched.
- Positioning schema: Children who explore this schema often like to arrange objects in a certain way or line them up. They can be seen putting objects or themselves in order and in specific positions (such as on top, next to, in front of, around the edge, beside, or behind). They may also line up objects by size, color, or shape. Some children may not want their food mixed together on the same plate. We can help this schema by providing materials like blocks or small toys that can be arranged in different ways.
- Connecting schema: Children who enjoy exploring this schema like to connect objects in different ways. They may tie toys together using ribbon, build chains out of objects, or fasten fabrics together to suspend things in the garden. (This can lead to a disconnecting schema where the child builds something that they can demolish through untying knots, etc.) To support this schema, we can provide materials such as blocks, Legos, or puzzles that can be used to build and connect structures.
- Orientation schema: Children exploring this schema like to explore their surroundings from different angles and orientations. They might look at things from unusual viewpoints, like upside down, through their legs, or in a mirrored reflection. Children may build ramps, climb, or stand on a ledge to see things from a higher position. They might also move objects or themselves into different positions. To support this schema, we can provide materials like mirrors, kaleidoscopes, or binoculars that let children see their surroundings in new and different ways.
- Enclosing schema: Children with this schema enjoy surrounding themselves or objects in spaces, like hiding under a blanket or inside a box. They may join lines or build structures with different materials to form an enclosure, which can be round, square, or rectangular. They may build fences or walls around objects, or fill in an enclosure they have drawn or built. They can also outline their art creations or arrange food around the edge of their plate. They might ride a bike around an enclosed space they have constructed. We can support this schema by providing materials like tunnels or tents that can be used for hiding and enclosing.
- Transformation schema: Children who like to change the way things look or feel by mixing, cutting or shaping different materials, may have this schema. They may mix paint to make new colors or shape clay or play dough into different objects. To support this schema, we can provide materials like modeling clay, play dough, or building blocks. We can also encourage children to mix different materials together, like adding water to flour to make a paste or mixing paint colors to create new shades.
Get the list of 150+ activities to support each schema here.