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Supporting Schemas for Babies and Toddlers

Schemas are described as mental structures and also patterns of behaviour that many of us observe in Early Years. As children grow, they experience more, therefore adding to their existing schemas. As they progress through early life their schemas become more co-ordinated and we are able to observe these recognisable patterns of behaviour in young children's play. By observing and noting these patterns of play we become able to understand them better, enjoy their company more and help them to learn in deep and thorough ways. (Bruce, 1997)

Posted on Wednesday 21st March 2018

Although children often show particular schemas in their play, not all children appear especially schematic. Practitioners in our settings often see children exhibiting one particular schema and others who show several at once. Schemas offer a key to understanding ways in which children behave, allowing us to plan for their needs in line with the EYFS content.

Some of the most typical behaviours/Schemas include:

  • transporting
  • enveloping
  • enclosure
  • trajectory
  • rotation
  • connection
  • positioning
  • transformation

We often see schemas manufacture themselves through children’s movements, but also in their drawings and use of items in the play space.

When planning for a schema, we look at the holistic offer of the play space, considering songs, games and resources in sand, water and construction areas to support it. Books can also play a strong role in fostering schemas.

If we identify a strong enclosure schema, for example, we would support with activities such as:

  • putting items in bags
  • putting clothes in washing machines
  • cooking food such as pancakes that fold/roll up

The environment would have lots of container resources to hide and bury, as well as materials to cover and wrap things. We reflect carefully on the type of resources which enhance this schematic learning.

View the Babies and Toddlers range here

With thanks to Emma Graham for writing this post.