Does your child like to do the same thing over and over again?

Maybe they...

  • Enjoy posting or dropping objects?
  • Repeatedly empty containers
  • Like to watch things spin around or spin around themselves?
  • Frequently move things from one place to another or like to carry things around?

Your child is probably exploring a schema.

What is a schema?

A schema is a pattern of behaviour that a child may show in their actions and play. Schemas help children make sense of the world and support children’s brain development; repeating behaviour helps to make connections in the brain. Children benefit from having opportunities to practice their skills and develop their understanding of concepts through schemas. They help children to organise and process their thoughts and feelings.

When you are able to identify that your child is exploring a schema, this helps you to understand what they are doing and you may be able to focus their attention to support their learning and development. You will also find that exploring schematic play will keep them entertained for much longer than any toy!

How can you identify a schema?

Watching your child at play is the best way to spot if they are exploring a schema. Children may also have more than one schema. Below we highlight some of the most common schemas and give you ideas of activities that you can provide to support your child.


A child who moves everything from one place to another

Your child may enjoy moving objects from one place to another. They may take things from one area of a room to another, take things from one place to another in bags or prams or go back and forth and bring you items. Their pockets and bags will always be full of bits and bobs!

To support this schema you could provide:
- A collection of things they can use to transport items. For example bags, buckets, suitcases, tins or boxes
- Wheeled toys such as pushchairs, wheelbarrows or bikes
- A collection of small items especially for transporting, such as pebbles or buttons. Be mindful of small items with younger children that may cause a choking hazard, particularly if they tend to put things in their mouths
- Set up a role play shop at home with empty food packets and bags for your child to 'buy'
- Go on a picnic and ask your child to help you pack up your treats!
- Go shopping and let your child have their own basket to carry


A child who is interested in things that are round or rotate

Your child may enjoy playing with wheels, like spinning round, enjoy water wheels or enjoy playing with toys that spin.

To support this schema you could provide:
- Bikes, cars and toys with wheels
- Mixing and stirring activities. You could do some cooking with your child. Or, simply provide a bowl and spoon or whisk for using in the bath or in the garden to make mud pies!
- Add spoons to their bath time
- A range of keys and padlocks
- A rolling pin with playdough, dough or for use in a sand tray
- Space to move around in a circular way
- Clocks with hands
- Sand or water for making circular patterns in
- Jars with lids to take off and put on
- Ribbons on sticks
- Water wheels
- Nuts and bolts


A child who likes posting items such as toys into small places, down radiators, under furniture

Your child may like posting items such as toys into small places, down radiators or under furniture.

To support this schema you could provide:
- A post box made from a cardboard box and provide your child with envelopes
- A cardboard box with different shaped holes cut in for your child to post items into
- A colander and straws or pipe cleaners
- Funnels for bath time or for posting small objects through

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