Guest blog: Mug trees, posting boxes and shape sorters - going through a boundary schema
An Introduction to Schemas
As parents and early years professionals we can get so hung up on what milestones our children are or not reaching that we can lose sight of what our child is actually interested in. A child is far more likely to achieve amazing things when we provide resources that actually interest them. A way to look at what a child is interested in is by using Schemas. Schemas are patterns of actions that children display when they are exploring the world around them. Children might try out the same action on a variety of different objects. This helps them to come up with their own theories and ideas about how things work. Schemas can later develop into concepts. Children can go through phases of having a particular strong schema to then having a cluster of schemas. You may notice your child has a strong interest in one particular schema but then this suddenly changes to an interest in something completely different.
Here are some common schemas that your child may display:
Trajectory: lines that are moving, like a jump. These lines can be vertical (up/down), horizontal (side to side) or oblique (at an angle). Trajectories can leave a mark or trail, that we refer to as a line. Children may be interested in the line of water pouring out of a tap or watering can or watching a car roll down a ramp.
Heaping and scattering: placing objects in a pile and scattering them in space is what some children constantly do. Children who enjoy scattering, may like having lots of small objects to scatter. Sweeping up with a dustpan and brush may interest children who are interested in heaping and scattering. So might throwing bread or corn to the ducks.
Transporting: carrying objects or being carried from one place to another – a buggy or shopping trolley may be a favourite toy. Children who are enjoying transporting will constantly find and gather things to move and ways of moving them around, e.g. bags, buggies, shopping trolleys.
Containing: putting objects materials or themselves into different containers - a variety of bottles, bags and boxes help children to explore this
Enveloping: covering themselves, objects or a space – tea towels or scarves or cardboard boxes may be popular play materials.
Rotation: turning, twisting or rolling themselves or objects – ring games, globes, rolling pins, rollers and wheels might be played with when exploring this pattern.
Connecting: an interest in connecting or joining themselves to objects or objects to each other – construction toys, pegs, paper clips, string, glue, magnets, sellotape, locks and chains might help children exploring this pattern.
Going through a boundary: making themselves or objects go through something and come out of the other side – tunnels, garlic press and postboxes might fascinate children exploring this pattern
On Top: being on top or placing objects on top – climbing equipment or shelves they can reach may help children exploring this pattern. Young children seem to like to be ‘on top’ of the slide or to place things on top of their buildings to embellish them.
Enclosing: an interest in enclosing themselves, toys or space – lego, train track, blocks or cushions may be used
when exploring this pattern. Children exploring enclosing often use cushions to surround themselves or like making pens for the farm animals.
My daughter has a really strong interest in a Going Through Schema at the moment. I had noticed that she would spend lots of time playing with her shape sorter and ring stacker. She would also post objects wherever she could, for example posting her toys through the bars of the stairgate. Once I had noticed her schematic interest I was able to provide other resources so that she could continue to explore this. I cut a hole in a box to make a post box, I provided a mug tree with some curtain rings and poked holes in a box for her to push lolly sticks through. By providing her with all of these opportunities I am supporting many aspects of her learning and development. These experiences can help to develop her hand eye coordination and concentration skills. She is also learning through trial and error by experimenting what she can go fit through the boundary she is exploring. As my daughter explores a going through a boundary schema she is also learning all about shape, space and measure. For example when she plays with her shape sorter she is having to work out what shape fits in each space she then has to manipulate the shape to make it fit through the hole.
As you can see by tuning into my daughter's current schematic interests I am still providing her with lots of learning opportunities and she is still going to be reaching her developmental milestones.
Have you noticed a particular schematic interest in your child?