Sep 23, 2020

The Importance of Schemas in a Child's Development

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It’s not unusual for a parent, carer, family member or someone in the wider community who may not have children in nursery, to not know what the term ‘Schema’ means when talking about children and Early Years. Often, when we don’t know what a term is or what it means, we assume the worst; “Oh dear, my child has a Schema, how do we fix it?” is a frequent reaction when parents or carers hear that their child might have a Schema. Please be reassured, Schemas are not to be concerned about.

Schema’s are a very technical way of describing common behaviours that many children have when they are playing. Put simply, a schema is a repeated pattern of behaviour. It encompasses children’s playing, their interaction with others and how they make sense of the world. Schemas are something to be celebrated and encouraged.

A good example is a Trajectory Schema which is a very common Schema in children. Children with it are interested in how things move. They might like to throw things, play with running water, run around a lot and push things in straight lines. Does this sound familiar?

It has been found in research that ‘Schemas link to the development and strengthening of cognitive structures (the basic mental processes people use to make sense of information) in the brain.  Children are able to act out experiences and take risks, testing out and talking about what they already know and can do. When children are playing with a concept or an idea that they know well, they are also building upon knowledge that they can then apply to a range of new experiences and activities. In this way, Schemas (cognitive structures) are constantly being strengthened through active exploration, engagement, thinking and investigation. It is the opportunities for children go on visits and combine resources and materials, in real and relevant contexts, which makes that crucial difference in the enrichment of a child’s learning.’

At nursery, we keep a close eye on our children’s schemas and try to make sure there are things that they can do to explore them. Children are always supported and encouraged to explore their Schemas. This might be blowing bubbles and catching them, having soft balls to roll and throw and playing on the slide. Quite often children have multiple Schemas and others have none at all. Each child is different and develops in their own unique way.

Often, parents or carers discover that they too have Schemas. All of a sudden, they are able to understand more about how they played as a child and maybe learn a bit more about how they behave as an adult.

If you would like to read more about Schemas, Pacey break it down nicely in an article here.

Lucy Swatton, Room Leader at Small Friends Day Nursery

The images below show the children deep in concentration and enjoyment, with the nursery team providing activities or resources to support them to develop and learn within a specific schema: Trajectory Schema – Rolling the cars up and down; Connecting Schema – Connecting the trains together in a line, dismantling and putting back together; Positioning Schema – Grouping objects together; and Trajectory Schema – Catching bubbles, but most importantly, having fun!!

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