What is schematic play?

Throughout your child’s journey at Little Hands Daycare, they will be learning through a variety of ‘Schemas’.  Schemas are less complicated than they sound. Here is some more information about what they are and how they support children’s learning:

What is a Schema?

A schema is a pattern of repeated actions. Schemas are behaviours that children go through when they are exploring the world and trying to find out how things work. Children have a very strong drive to repeat actions, move things from one place to another, cover things up, put things into containers, move in circles and throw things. 


Many children develop schemas throughout their early years and at Little Hands we ensure that we have the knowledge to identify these schemas and put into place activities and learning invitations to support and promote their schema. A child may repeatedly show elements of one particular schema, reinforcing that this is their preferred way to explore the world. Often, children will also use a range of schematic characteristics in their play.  


There are many types of schemas and you may notice your child displaying some of these schemas at home; 


Trajectory – creating lines in space by climbing up and jumping down. Dropping items from up high. 


Positioning – lining items up and putting them in groups. 


Enveloping – covering themselves or objects completely. Wrapping items up or placing them in containers. 


Rotating – enjoys spinning items round and round. Likes to run around in circles or being swung round. 


Enclosing – adding boundaries to play areas e.g. fences around animals. Adding borders to pictures. 


Transporting – carrying or moving items from one place to another; carrying items in containers or bags. 


Connecting – setting out and dismantling tracks, constructing, joining items together with tape or glue. 


Transforming – exploring the changing states of materials, transforming them from a solid to liquid state and back again. 


Orienteering – an interest in positioning themselves or objects in different places or positions e.g upside down or on their side.


Why is Schematic play in early years important? 



By recognising which schemas are present in children’s play, parents and practitioners can use them to extend children’s thinking and learning. For example, if you recognise repeated signs of the ‘enclosing’ play schema in early years, while a child plays, such as wrapping objects up in blankets, you could provide them with seeds and bulbs to bury in the soil. This leads to children being much more deeply engaged when learning, as it uses a schema which genuinely interests them. 


One essential way which we support schemas in early years settings, is we tailor our continuous provision and environments to suit different schemas, so children can engage with their interests during free play.


You may see some of your observations from the setting on your child’s parent admin account mentioning how a schema has been promoted. If your child uses any schemas at home, we would love to see any observations uploaded from home.


Further reading:



A guide to schema play in toddlers


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T: 01384 441441
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Nursery Manager: Lara Owen & Bev Ramsell

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