Ever watched your little one lining up their toys perfectly, in the most methodical way and thought to yourself ‘why on Earth are they doing that?!’ or found yourself wondering if other children do it? Well….there’s a scientific reason behind it and it’ll probably fascinate you as a parent! Schemas in play!
Repetition is an essential component of learning and development within the early years and schemas are a huge part of this. Schemas are patterns of thoughts or behaviours which support children in organising different types of information and discovering the relationships between them. There are lots of different types of schema;
🌟connection- joining things together, opening and closing
🌟transforming – mixing things together, combining different materials
🌟orientation – trying out different viewpoints e.g. hanging upside down
🌟trajectory – moving objects by throwing, rolling, hitting, dropping
🌟rotation – spinning and turning objects or themselves, drawing circles
🌟enveloping – covering themselves with material, hiding objects inside things
🌟enclosure – creating borders around themselves or around objects, containing things
🌟positioning – arranging things and lining objects up
🌟transporting – filling pockets and bags with objects to move to another area
As children develop and grow, they begin to piece together different forms of knowledge, understanding and skills that they have learnt. For example, a baby may first see a ball in a picture book, then hold a small toy ball as they play on the floor, watch someone throw one across the air for a dog, followed by being able to drop one themselves out of their buggy. All of this new information comes together through them making connections between what they have learnt and this is where schemas come in!
Another example of this is around age one, my previously ‘well behaved’ baby, who would sit in his high chair and eat beautifully, cooing away at me as I spooned food into his little mouth, suddenly starts to throw food onto the floor.
Your first reaction may be that he’d been possessed by a javelin throwing devil, with my house now doomed for destruction and chaos. As annoying as it was having food splattered on the floor (and a dog that was getting fatter by the day!), I soon realised it was what’s known as the trajectory schema. This type of play schema is centred around throwing, dropping, rolling, jumping off objects, banging and hitting.
Ted loved throwing objects into his ball pool, rolling them down his slide outside, bashing pots and pans and all of these are positive ways in which he could carry out the schema in a safe, playful way.
It might seem like providing MORE opportunities to carry out an unwanted behaviour (throwing food) in a different way would encourage him. However, it often has the opposite effect as the more children are given the chance to explore schemas, their brains are more able to organise their thoughts and understanding. So, once I’d got my head around how I could support him, it ran its course and lo and behold, Ted decided eating his food was way more fun than creating more cleaning for Mummy! (He just does it through tiny Lego pieces now).
Ps my house WAS destined for destruction and chaos (but not in the most part from food throwing 🤣🤣). I blame their dad!