While repetitive play can get boring for parents of young children, doing the same thing over and over again actually keeps kids engaged. The trick is to identify the patterns in your child’s behavior — or their Schema — and match activities accordingly.
Schema Play is a science-backed way to keep your child learning without too much supervision. If you’re trying to balance working from home and taking care of kids right now, this approach could be a game changer.
While repetitive play can get boring for parents of young children, doing the same thing over and over again actually keeps kids engaged. The trick is to identify the patterns in your child’s behavior — or their Schema — and match activities accordingly. Then, you can let your child enjoy the activity on their own and hopefully get some work done yourself.
Think of Schemas as specific actions children tend to repeat. They can include things like: connecting, transporting, or positioning. ”Schema Play allows children and babies to construct knowledge through their self-driven play and exploration,” explains Emily Owen, PhD, a Cleo Family Guide trained in developmental psychology.
“When teachers and parents can identify and capitalize on children’s natural play patterns, we see increased focused attention.”
According to Emily, Schema Play allows a child to interact with the environment based on internal, intrinsic motivations. “When teachers and parents can identify and capitalize on children’s natural play patterns, we see increased focused attention, as well as improved shared attention.” Emily has helped Cleo Families implement Schema Play with positive results.
The evidence from developmental and educational psychology research suggests strongly that Schema Play is essential for a rich and powerful learning experience. It’s also an important tool for parents looking to engage their children for longer periods of time while they work from home.
Below are patterns typically seen in Schema Play and some ways to encourage them. Remember, it won’t work to just apply any Schema activity. You will need to match the activity to the Schema your child is currently working on themselves.
Transporting Schema: moving objects from one place to another.
Rotation Schema: twisting or turning objects or yourself.
Connecting Schema: joining things together.
Enclosing Schema: building round, square, or rectangular enclosures.
Positioning Schema: ordering and arranging objects.
Enveloping Schema: covering yourself or objects with something.
Orientation Schema: looking at things through different viewpoints.
Trajectory Schema: moving objects or yourself in horizontal or vertical directions.
As a parent, you likely have an idea of what repetitive behavior — or Schema — your child gravitates to. If you offer activities that encourage those behaviors, there’s a good chance they will play on their own. It’s a win-win for everyone. To learn more about Schema Play, check out these resources.