Parents & Home Learning SchemaPlay (TM) Parent’s Zone

Schemes are defined as repeatable patterns of behaviour. These repeated behaviours help your child to make sense of the World around them; constructing knowledge and understanding. Schemes are also necessary pre-requisites to engaging in later more complex operations such as reading, writing, measuring, adding and subtracting.

Below you will find a short introduction video to SchemaPlay Pedagogy as well as a listing of the most common schemes explored in children’s earliest years. If you would like to know more about SchemaPlay and our parent workshops, please keep an eye on this page, as workshops take place throughout the year and we will advertise them on this site.

Sharing activities at home

The Connecting scheme: When young children start to explore this scheme they are usually fascinated by how objects connect together.  They may also be interested in how they themselves can be connected to objects or other people.  As connection is readily explored by a child, they might also become fascinated in disconnecting – untying shoe laces, unlinking arms, and knocking down towers.

There are many exciting investigations that children might be exploring as they apply a connecting scheme in their play:-

Connection (very young infants will start applying this scheme in joining two things together – perhaps playing with Velcro toys). This early play investigation of joining two objects to form one (early fraction exploration) supports their fine motor skills (hand-eye co-ordination).

Height (may be explored as children construct vertical towers using building blocks: A mathematical exploration of tall and short/big and small, which also fosters hand-eye co-ordination.).

Length (young children might start to notice differences in length as they connect blocks, twigs, pegs, or glue objects together in a line).

Magnetic/non-magentic (explored through play with magnets and a variety of objects).

Quantity (counting objects connected together).

Pattern (creating patterns by gluing objects in a particular arrangement or placing magnetic discs onto a magnetic tray and creating a pattern perhaps – exploring colour or shape).

Symmetry (may also be explored in children’s constructions).

Connecting activities that you might like to explore at home:

Babies/Toddlers:  If you have a mug tree/kitchen roll holder, you might like to offer your child some bangles to place on to the tree/the holder, which will support hand/eye co-ordination and exploration of how things can be joined/connected and disconnected.  Very young children will also enjoy play with Velcro toys.  

Toddlers/Young children: Wash and save any tins, boxes, and yoghurt pots and store them in an accessible box or bag for your child to construct with.  

Young children exploring a connecting scheme might enjoy junk modelling.  Provide glue, paints and any recycled cartons/boxes/yoghurt pots.  

Young children:  Explore magnetic and non-magnetic objects.  Offer a basket of objects and explore together which objects connect to the magnet and which ones do not. Perhaps make two labels ‘magnetic’ and ‘non-magnetic’ and as you test each object, asking “Is this one magnetic?”, sort your findings by placing the object under the corresponding label.  This will help children to recognise that text carries meaning.  You could also record your findings – counting how many objects are magnetic and drawing a tally line as you count each one.

Young children: If you notice a particular investigation, such as height, length or pattern taking place, consider how household objects might be joined together to support their enquiry.  For example, you might have some string or ribbon and some items around the house that could be threaded – laying the string down, the child might explore how long it is – perhaps counting the objects threaded and later even going on to make patterns – perhaps threading a blue carton, red carton, yellow carton, etc.   Children may enjoy play with fuzzy felts and stories such as ‘Spinderella’ and ‘Walters Wonderful Web’, supporting narratives and language development.  

The Containing & Enclosing Scheme: Children who enjoy applying a containing and enclosing scheme will possibly first show signs of this by putting objects into containers and then taking them out again.  As children explore this scheme further they might apply it in their role-play, such as playing shops (supermarket/sweet shops) where they can fill containers, baskets and shopping trollies. Initially, offering groups of different objects (pinecones, blocks, leaves, etc.), with baskets, buckets, bags, carts, and boxes to fill will foster great fascination , independence, and hand-eye co-ordination, as well as promote exploration of capacity, volume and size. If you have any fabrics available to create dens and somewhere to hide, this can ignite an their play and support exploration and whole body experience of space, shape, size, and perhaps even discussions about darkness and light. Children may also enjoy playing with blocks and creating enclosed spaces for small-world animals, such as in farmyard small-world play.

The following are some ideas of investigations that your child might be exploring:

Capacity (very young children will start to explore this scheme by filling and emptying containers, which not only helps them to find out about different types of containers, but also supports exploration of space, shape, volume and capacity).

Quantity (children might start to explore how many objects they can fit inside a bag/bucket/wheelbarrow)

Weight (as children carry different objects around they may start to notice variations in weight).

Light and dark (playing with torches in dens/hiding inside boxes).

Early literacy (children may start to explore this scheme graphically and enclose spaces on paper with crayons and paint brushes).

Containing activities that you might like to explore at home:

Toddlers will enjoy filling up buckets, washing up bowls, bags, boxes and tins with household objects.  You might like to offer collections of objects, collected whilst on a walk, such as pinecones, leaves, shells and stones.
Toddlers often enjoy playing with large cardboard boxes, exploring space, size and how they fit inside.  They may also fill boxes with objects, further exploring shape, space and capacity. These actions are supporting their gross and fine motor development and support early mathematical investigations.
Young children may enjoy supervised water play or sand play – filling and emptying different sized buckets or graded measuring/stacking cups, supporting and extending their perception of size, capacity and promoting fine motor skills.
Young children: Offer opportunities to engage in cooking, filling and emptying different containers and perhaps even counting quantities and helping to weigh ingredients.
Young children: Provide a sheet, tarpaulin, wind-up torches, and boxes for children to create their own dens and explore light and dark.
Children may enjoy sharing stories such as ‘Where’s Spot’ and ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’, which could be acted out with toy teddy bears and breakfast bowls.
Photo by Polesie Toys on

The Rotating Scheme: Children enjoying exploring a rotating scheme may become absorbed by things that turn: Taps, wheels, cogs and keys.  He or she may roll cylinders along or roll him/herself along the ground or down a slope. Children enjoying this scheme are often seen rotating their arms, or constructing objects with rotating parts. Young children ‘s drawings are often of spirals and circles, as they go on to explore this scheme graphically. The following provides a little insight into some of the ideas your child might be exploring as they apply a rotating scheme in their play:

Force and Momentum (as young children push and pull wheeled toys along, or roll cable reels and tyres along the ground).

Distance (toddlers who enjoy rolling balls down slopes/ramps or kicking balls may be exploring how far they travel).

Cause and Effect (young children may explore the effects of wind on a home-made windmill, or how that as more water/sand is poured over a water wheel it makes it turn faster).

Pattern: (young children may select round objects and create patterns with these objects).

Rotating activities that you might like to explore at home:

Babies might enjoy play with different textured balls or playing with bangles contained in a basket. They may also enjoy reaching for balls or round objects placed within their reach (albeit a little challenge to grasp hold of) when enjoying ‘tummy time’. This ‘tummy time’ play will support gross motor development, hand-eye co-ordinations, self-belief and independence.
Toddlers may also enjoy exploring this scheme using paint rollers, rolling pins, and using whisks in supervised water play.
Round objects are a great fascination to young children exploring a rotating scheme and  therefore providing baskets of bangles, large round colourful discs, corks, and beads may support exploration of pattern, size and symmetry.
Young children may also enjoy play with cars and creating road maps with chalk (adults may need to model making a map a few times). This activity could also support positional language.
Stories and songs shared could include ‘The Wheels on the Bus’, ‘Wind the Bobbin up’, and ‘Ten in the bed and the little one said roll-over’.  Any books with rotating parts are likely to be a great motivator for engaging in stories, and supporting your child’s language development.

The Trajectory Schemes (Horizontal & Vertical): This scheme is identifiable in babies and young children’s play: Babies explore the trajectory scheme by kicking, and reaching for objects. Toddlers often enjoy trajectory scheme activities such as dropping objects from their high chair or throwing objects. As children get older they continue to explore the scheme through large movements, such as jumping, running and even throwing objects to targets, and will often show enjoyment in this scheme graphically; in their drawings – creating lines and later grids. Many mathematical and scientific investigations are explored whilst applying a trajectory scheme and a few are listed below:

Gravity/Up and Down (very young children will start to find out about gravity as they drop objects from their high chair).

Up and Down (babies/toddlers will start to find out about these two words and the concept of ‘up’ and ‘down’ as they are lifted up and down or as they throw objects up in the air, and observe them fall to the ground).

Distance (toddlers who enjoy rolling balls down slopes/ramps or kicking balls may be exploring how far they travel).

Cause & Effect (young children may enjoy exploring ‘floating and sinking’ by dropping a range of objects into a bowl of water (supervised by an adult).

Force and Momentum (young children pushing and pulling wheeled toys in a line may notice how the force of their body enables the object to move. They may also notice that as the toys is pushed down a slope that it gathers momentum.

Pressure (young children blowing bubbles might notice that as the bubbles get higher they burst).

Trajectory scheme activities that you might like to explore at home:

Toddlers often enjoy a ‘dropping platform’.  Somewhere at home/in the garden that is a safe space to stand and watch how things fall (early exploration/understanding of gravity).  Provide different weight objects, such as feathers, dusters, sponges, a wooden spoon etc., to drop.  

The exploration of ‘up’ and ‘down’ can be explored by going up and down slides and through dancing with ribbons – taking the ribbons up in the air, and then laying them down on the ground – add locational words as you dance “up”, “down”, “in the air”, “on the ground”. Sing rhymes with actions, such as the ‘Grand Old Duke of York’ or ‘Hickory Dickory Dock’.

To support exploration of distance and length: Provide balls and two/three different height ramps.  This will be a great opportunity to introduce language, such as long, short, near, and far.  You may also like to offer toys that can be thrown or that fly through the air, such as Frisbees, and kites, for example.  

Cause and effect explorations may well be enjoyed by young children exploring a trajectory scheme and you might like to introduce experiments, such as ‘Floating and Sinking’ where you offer a box of objects and as they are dropped into the water – test out together which ones float and which ones sink.  Labels, with the words ‘floating’ and ‘sinking’ could make good header cards to record findings/place the objects under the relevant heading.  This will support the child to recognise and appreciate that text carries meaning during their scientific experiment.  

Young children: Supporting recording for a purpose by counting out load and tallying as you do so.  When young children can draw lines and can count and they notice adults, recording as they count (drawing a small line to represent 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 (IIIIIII)), they are very likely to imitate.  This will support your child’s understanding of quantity over time and that you can also record quantities.  

Young children: Offer lots of mark-making opportunities – sticks in mud, paint brushes and paint, paint brushes in sand, toy vehicles in sand, and pipettes/paint.  These will support your child’s emerging engagement in early literacy and their fine motor physical development skills, as well as their creativity.  

Stories such as ‘Blue Balloon’, ‘Jack in the Beanstalk’, ‘Rosie’s Walk’ or ‘Hickory Dickory Dock’, ‘ The Grand Old Duke of York’ and ‘The Three Little Pigs’ might be fun to share and explore the trajectory scheme further in stories/rhymes.
Recording findings.

The Transporting Scheme: Many toddlers enjoy applying this scheme in their play.  They are fascinated by being able to move objects from one place to another and will enjoy this activity by moving objects around in bags, wheelbarrows, dumper trucks, and trollies. They are in fact combining a trajectory scheme and a containing scheme. This play is sophisticated and can support great investigations.

Distance (explored by toddlers/young children as they move a trolley or bag filled with objects from one place to another repeatedly. They may even provide a dialogue as they are transporting objects – discussing what they pass/see on route, as they make their way to their chosen end destination).

Size/Volume/Capacity and Quantity (may be a fascination/great investigation to explore. Children might be interested in how much space they have in their modes of transport or how many objects they are able to transport in a bag, box and wheelbarrow).

Weight (Young children who have groups of objects to move around may notice differences in weight, which could later be sorted into groups – heavy objects and lighter objects).

Transporting scheme activities that you might like to explore at home:

If you have access to cardboard boxes, trays, child-sized wheelbarrows, trolleys and/or rucksacks, your child may enjoy filling them and moving the objects contained from one place to another.  When considering objects to transport, you might like to offer small balls, pinecones, sand and stones.  

Later, you might like to encourage transporting objects, which need to be sorted into different containers – perhaps sorting them by colour (red, yellow and blue) or by size/shape.  

Young children with a transporting scheme will enjoy playing with small-world dumper trucks in sand, or with small-world airplanes/buses and people, which can support narratives and language development, especially when supported with stories.   Stories such as ‘Handa’s Surprise’, Baby on Board’, ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ and ‘Spot Goes Shopping’, that all lend themselves to acting out transporting with props whilst reading. Holding up objects mentioned in the story, will support your child’s one to one correspondence with the object and word and using the object in their play will further support his or her understanding of the object/know what the word means.

As your child’s language develops and they are keen to play collaboratively, offer role-play such as supermarket play, builders play, both facilitating transporting and can be supported with stories that link to the role-play themes.

Our next parent workshop will take place at 6pm (UK time) on the 21st of September (code SPP1), and again on the 22nd of September at 9am (code SPP2). To book a place, please visit our ‘shop’ page and click on the code/time that you would like to attend.

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