Play Schema’s

Play is super important to our little ones learning! In fact it may look like play to you and me but actually they are being mini scientists & engineers. Exploring, experimenting and working out the world around them.

I could go into all the fascinating science bits about play and brain development, but lets face it you are here for tips on how to support their play. Schematic play (fancy word for repeated actions in play) is where children show a particular interest in to a way things work or certain types of activities. Some are super easy to identify others are more subtle. The main thing is that understanding what they key stages are can help you understand behaviours as well as create play activities and toys to support and engage you little one.

So below are a few of the most common play schema’s – what they mean – what they may look like and some suggested things you could do with them.

Trajectory Schema

This is a play schema that parents notice with ease and often feels like it lasts FOREVER!!! Often it starts with throwing and dropping food or throwing everything! They have a real interest in how things move. This is one where we sometimes need to guide them to do things in a safer way. Because throwing heavy and fragile items with full force is not always safe.

Things they may enjoy!

Putting their hands under running water, giving them safe spaces to run and jump and bump into things, musical instruments, hammer and ball toys, skittles, paper planes, throwing bean bags, other soft items (rolled up scarves, sponges), ramps and tubes with balls/cars/pompoms, hammering items, frizbee, slinky, cutting foods,

Connection Schema

They are wanting to join things together as well dismantle them. They are exploring how things go together and come apart, developing fine motor skills, cause and effect.

Things they may enjoy!

Construction toys such as train tracks, mega blocks, dupolo, blocks.

Puzzles, jigsaws, threading, magnets, sting and tying things together, nuts & bolds, busy boards, crafts with glue and tape, stickers.

Transforming Schema

Watching how things change and transform! This can be the stage when they put their food into their cup of water…

Things they may enjoy!

Messy play – mixing and combining ingredients, making play dough or cooking, using paints or food colouring, mud kitchen, making potions, face painting, dressing up, playdough, melting things, making juice.

Enclosure Schema

Creating and finding small spaces to place themselves or objects. They may want to get inside, under, between things. Create barriers/fences for their toys.

Things they may enjoy!

Being in and creating dens/small spaces, playing inside a box, colouring, caves and fences for toys, hide and seek, tunnels, feely box, putting things inside a box, ball bits. Crafts arranged inside of a frame made from cardboard, lollypop sticks.

Positioning Schema

This is one that parents worry about as it has been something associated with children who are neurodiverse. Although this can be a repeated behaviour for children with neurodiversity, it is also a very significant play schema. They are learning similarities and differences, increasing concentration and a lot of math skills!

Things they may enjoy!

Lining things up by catogories, stacking blocks and objects, sorting objects, creating patterns with shapes/pegboards/pebbles/loose parts, matching games like lotto, lining up animals, flower arranging.

Transporting Schema

This is where children explore and learn so much about permanence, spatial awareness and measuring. Even a bit of planning.

Things they will enjoy!

carrying things around in theri hands, passing things to you, then taking them back, putting things inside other things, filling and emptying shelves and draws, bags, baskets, pockets, tool belts, diggers and trucks to move things, pipettes, vehicles with trailers, wheelbarrows, shopping baskets, gardening, gathering things.

Rotation Schema

Turning and twisting things – objects and themselves. They are working on their motor skills and cause and effect. They may spend time spinning wheels or turning on taps.

Things they may enjoy!

Winding and unwinding string, playing with hoops, spinning tops, turning on and off taps, spinning wheels and blades on toys, bead maze, mixing things ,play with play dough, balls of different sizes and weights, watching the washing machine, gears and cogs, kaleidoscopes, rolling pin or paint rollers, merry-go-rounds, pulleys and leavers.

Enveloping Schema

Covering and hiding themselves and items. This is lots of fun!

Things they may enjoy!

Dressing up, filling and emptying containers, swaddling dolls and teddies, peekaboo, hiding items in sensory trays (like rice/pasta/foam), wrapping gifts, puppets, wooden eggs in egg cups, freezing toys in ice.

Orientation Schema

I love this one! It is great fun watching them put their heads through their legs, spin until they fall over or hang upside down like a bat. They are exploring how the world looks from different positions. This is particularly focused on those gross motor skills and stimulating their vestibular system.

Things they may enjoy!

Tunnels, mirrors at different angles, play parks, gymnastics or yoga, spinning, rolling, twisting, wobbling indoors or outdoors, climbing along raised surfaces, soft play, swings, coloured paddles, mark making on different levels (upright on an easel, or paper stick under the table)

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