Schemas and planning

When we observe repeated patterns of behaviour in young children's play and exploration, we can use this information to identify the schemas children are exploring. Although children often show particular schemas not all children will and of course this will change over time; with children sometimes showing one schema often or several different schemas across the day/week/month. Identifying schemas can be useful as they offer a way of understanding children’s behaviours in addition to helping us to identify their interests. In turn this can support the planning process. In chapter 10 of Reflective Teaching in Early Education and in the chapter 10 links on this site we provide information on, and templates for, planning. Below we offer some ideas for planning for children based upon identified schemas.

Schema – Connection

Children join or connect items, for example, train tracks and carriages or beads on a string.

Possible activities to plan for include:

Schema – Rotation

Child may enjoy items which roll and/or spin, for example wheels on cars or washing machines, or spinning around themselves. Possible activities to plan for include:

Schema – Envelope

When displaying this schema children may like to be covered up or cover things up, for example dolls. Possible activities to plan for include:

Schema – Trajectory

Children displaying this schema may be interested in all trajectories or specific diagonal, vertical or horizontal trajectories. Behaviours include dropping, building and knocking down towers, jumping and playing ball. Possible activities to plan for include:

Schema - Transporting

This involves the movement objects from one place to another. Possible activities to plan for include:

Recommended reading:

For more detail on schemas and planning see:

Atherton, F. and Nutbrown, C. (2013) Understanding Schemas from Birth to Three, London: Sage

Athey, C. (2007) Extending Thought in Young Children, (2nd Ed), London: PCP

Featherstone, S. (2008) Understanding schema in young children Again! Again!, London: Featherstone Education Ltd

To help parents to support schemas in the home: