Schemas: learning through play

​​ ​​​Have you ever watched your child at play and wondered why they are continually repeating certain actions?​

You can maybe recall watching your child continually drop toys from their pram or highchair, or fill up bags and boxes and move things around different parts of your home.

If so, it is possible that your child is engaging in schematic play.




PDF file: Schematic Play - summary sketch (1.2 MB)

PDF file: Schemas: Learning through play (1.5 MB)

Powerpoint presentation: Schematic Play - sides with voiceover (large file 16MB)


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Schematic play happens when babies, toddlers and young children are involved in repeated actions or certain behaviours as they explore the world around them and try to find out how things work.

We call these specific actions or behaviours 'Schemas'. They can vary from child to child and some children may never display schematic play or behaviours.

Very young children benefit from opportunities to repeat and practise different actions. This helps their brain development and learning as they grow and develop. For example, actions of up and down, going from side to side, and rotating will support children when they begin to make marks, draw and eventually write.​​

There are many types of schemas that children often display. Some will have a predominant schema such as showing an interest in things that move up and down and round-about. Others will show more than one at ​a time.​ For example, they may hide objects or themselves, wrap things up, and enjoy connecting and disconnecting toys.​

Related link

Dorset County Council: ​Information on schemas​​

National Improvement Hub page: Schematic play​ - taking a closer look