• Susie Robbins

How To: Support Schema Play

Schema play sounds technical and confusing, possibly even a little bit boring, actually it is anything but! Understanding schema play is the key to unlocking successful play set ups and finding fun new ways to extend play. Often children need to have their schematic behaviours redirected as they can manifest in activity that is not always compatible with being inside the home. There are 8 main types of schema and here are some suggestions for safe ways to meet the need and support their play:

Trajectory - this is where the child creates lines of movement in their play, it can be seen in babies reaching and stretching towards a toy, or in older children throwing objects or jumping up and down.

Activities to satisfy the trajectory schema: tug of war, pushing a heavy object across a room, climbing, long jump, pogo sticks, space hopper races, dropping things, climbing up and down steps, jumping, hopping, obstacle courses, paper aeroplanes, posting pompoms down tubes, blowing bubbles, scooping and pouring from sensory bases, whizzing cars or balls along the ground to see how far they travel, pushing cars or balls down a slide, sledging, going on the swings, flying a kite, pendulum painting, building towers up AND bashing them down.

Rotation - this is where a child rotates an object or themselves, have you ever wondered why some toddlers like to spin round and around, or why your child simply cannot help but windmill a piece of long string or ribbon about their head? Rotational play is meeting their need.

Activities to satisfy the rotational schema: going on the roundabout at the park, spinning tops, rolling playdough, clockwork cars, make a circular train track and encourage your child to sit in the middle so that they rotate as the train journeys along, rolling down a hill, turning taps on and off, screwing and unscrewing lids onto bottles or jars, nuts and bolts, yoyos, anything with moving wheels, hula hoops.

Enclosing - this is where children are observed building enclosures, such as creating fences or lines to contain play.

Activities to satisfy the enclosing schema: farm yards with separate fields and areas for different animals or cops, encourage your child to add a border or frame to any art or written work, using blocks to create separating walls or fences, create a ring road around a play town.

Enveloping - do you have a child who just loves to put stuff in or under other stuff? This is the nature of the enveloping schema. They may also enjoy enveloping themselves, in layers of clothes, hats or inside dens.

Activities to satisfy the enveloping schema: posting, using sensory scarves to hide toys for a memory game, having a dressing up box ready and available, allow den building, or empty out the cupboard under the stairs to create a small but cosy space, camping, provide a bag or bucket for children to fill, have large pieces of fabric available such as an old bedsheet or tablecloth, keep hold of boxes, stacking cups, Russian dolls or nesting boxes.

Transporting - you will see your child going back and forth transporting objects from one place to another. They may use a bag or basket, vehicle or just their hands but they will appear to be very busy!

Activities to satisfy the transporting schema: tractors with a trailer, dumper trucks, bin lorries, wheelbarrows, trollies, baskets, buckets, journey jars, backpacks, handbags, don't forget to provide items for them to transport - loose parts are great for this, but anything lightweight and small would be ideal, spades and a sandpit, or a rake and some leaves would be very constructive ways to support this schema play.

Connecting - this is where a child enjoys connecting one object to another.

Activities to satisfy the connecting schema: magnetic tiles, magnetic fishing game, train tracks and magnetic trains, making paperchains, learning to tie knots, cops and robbers with pretend handcuffs, human chains, ring-a-ring-a-roses, water play with pipes, sticky tape, buttons.

Positioning - this can be seen in a child who enjoys lining toys up, or placing objects in a particular order, great upset can occur if this is rearranged.

Activities to satisfy the positioning schema: ordering to size, grouping in shape, size, texture or colour, encourage positional language such as 'on top of', 'opposite' or 'behind', serving food in partitioned plates so that different food types don't mix, stacking cups, threading, creating patterns and sequences with loose parts.

Orientation - where a child wishes to view things from a new angle.

Activities to satisfy the orientation schema: hanging upside from the sofa or bed, climbing to a higher position or crawling on their bellies, climbing frames or walls, monkey bars, walking backwards, facing backwards when travelling in a train or bus, asking to be carried on your shoulders, yoga or gymnastics.

Schematic play is repetitive and most often seen in toddlers. It is frequently impulsive and is really important for cognitive development, so rather than trying to shut down any inconvenient schema play (for example my eldest went through a phase of throwing everything and indoors this just wasn't a safe option) try to redirect the urges towards one of the activities I've listed. If you want play to last a little longer it is always worth asking yourself if your child is presenting any schematic patterns or behaviour, and if so include an outlet for this in your play. Best of luck!

(For even more information on Schema Play check out @peachy_speech on Instagram.)


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