Children do not all learn in the same way. As practitioners of young children it is good practise to be aware of the ways different children learn.

The Early Years team have compiled some information of schemas

Schemas are patterns of repeatable behaviour which can often be noticed in young children’s play. Some easily identifiable schemas are:

Schema Description of possible behaviours
Transporting A child may carry all the bricks from one place to another in a bag, the sand from the tray to the home corner in a bucket, push a friend around in a toy pram.
Enveloping A child may cover themselves in a flannel when washing, wrap dolls and toys up in blankets and fabric, cover their painting with one colour.
Enclosure/containing A child may put their thumb in and out of their mouth, fill up and empty containers of all kinds, climb into large cartons, sit in the tunnel, build ‘cages’ with blocks.
Trajectory;Diagonal/vertical/horizontal A child may gaze at your face, drop things from their cot, make arcs in their spilt food with their hand, play with the running water in the bathroom, climb up and jump off furniture, line up the cars, bounce and kick balls, throw.
Rotation A child may be fascinated by the spinning washing machine, love anything with wheels, roll down a hill, enjoy spinning round or being swung around.
Connection A child may distribute and collect objects to and from a practitioner, spend time joining the train tracks together, stick the masking tape form across form the table to the chair.
Positioning A child may put things on their head, prefer their custard next to their sponge not over it, lie on the floor or under the table.
Transforming A child may add juice to their mashed potato, sand to the water tray, enjoy adding colour to cornflour or making dough.

Although children often show particular schemas in their play, not all children appear especially schematic. Some show one particular schema particularly strongly and others show several at once. Sometimes one schema which has been particularly strong will seem to fade, possibly to be replaced by another. Schemas offer a key to understanding ways in which children behave. In the planning process, awareness of children’s schemas can be invaluable in matching curriculum content with children’s interests and needs.

Children whose play is particularly schematic may have particular preferences in the setting for activities and resources:

Schema Child’s preferences
Connection (joining) Train track




Enveloping (covering, surrounding) Dens

Things in boxes


Dressing up

Wrapping ‘presents’

Rotation (circles) Circle games



Spinning tops


Trajectory (straight lines) Throwing games




Playing with running water

Transporting (moving things) Shopping bags