Peekaboo Nursery and Childcare Edinburgh


Schematic Play

Schematic play

Schemas are described as patterns of behaviour, which children may repeat time and time again whilst they are exploring the world around them. As children grow, they experience more, therefore adding to their existing schemas.

As children progress through their early years their schemas become more co-ordinated and we are able to observe these patterns of behaviour within their play.

Schemas provide us with an understanding to how children behave and learn through their play allowing us to plan for their developmental needs.

Examples of some schemas are:-


Children will be fascinated with the horizontal, vertical and diagonal movement of items and themselves. They may spend a lot of time throwing or dropping items, building up towers and knocking them over again, running back and forth between items and climbing up on items and jumping off them again

At home:

You may observe your child climbing up and down on furniture, throwing or dropping items such as toys and food from heights, (e.g from cots and highchairs), moving items between people, playing with their food they have spilt on the table(often making arcs) and banging toys on the walls or radiators.

How we can support this:

-Throwing, rolling and catching games, provide your child with scrunched up newspaper, balloons and soft balls.

-Sand and water play using sieves, funnels, bottles and guttering that allowing different ways of pouring the water.

-Creating ramps to roll items or themselves down.

-Use of percussion instruments and woodwork activities that allow them to explore the movements of hammering and beating.


– Children will become fascinated with moving items/objects from one area to another. They may like to place items within containers to move them around e.g filling containers in the garden with sand or soil and move them from place to place. You may find that they enjoy playing with toy cars and as play progresses items such as blocks may become cars with their imagination.

At home:

You may observe your child moving toys, furniture objects around the room or back and forth between people. They may show a fascination with walkers, toy cars, ride on cars and push and pull toys using ropes and string to pull them along.

How we can support this:

– Provide your child with empty bags, purses, boxes, buckets with handles, wheelbarrows, and plastic bottles. They will be able to explore what items they can move around with what etc.

-Provide lots of materials that will be able to transport such as blocks, balls, paper and rattles.


– Your child may be fascinated with objects that turn around, twist, spin and even enjoy moving their own bodies displaying these movements.

At home :

You may find your child enjoys turning taps on and off, spends time repeatedly turning knobs on anything, likes to spin anything such as wheels on a bike, toys which rotate or watching the washing machine spin. They may even show a real fascination with fans. Whether they are on the ceiling or a desk they may work out how the fans turn on and spend lots of time watching them intently.

How we can support this:

-You could provide your child with spinning top toys, balls, wheeled toys and access to knobs they are able to turn

-Encourage physical play so that they can roll and spin safely.


– Children will enjoy putting layers of dressing up clothes on or wrapping themselves or objects up in fabrics, materials and hats. Children become fascinated with making dens and playing hide and seek or peekaboo and may often be observed crawling through tunnels or sitting in them for long periods of time. They might also spend a lot of time painting a beautiful picture and then covering their work with one colour.

At Home:

You may see your child making dens, perhaps in your bed or their own, crawling through tunnels again and again at soft play and not wanting to come out basically hiding inside anything they can fit inside. Curtains and materials will become very exciting and they may also begin taking their coats on and off again repeatedly.

How we can support this:

-At home you could provide your child with floaty neck scarves, a variety of different materials, hats, empty boxes / bags and lots of space to make dens,

-Large and small envelopes and paper for children to investigate the concept of putting letters into envelopes.

-Lots of paints and arts and craft media.


– Children observed as exploring this schema will spend lots of time connecting toys and objects together, for example joining the car and train tracks together and connecting the train too. You may see them connecting cars or animals together ensuring that one touches the other. They will show a particular interest in floor or insert puzzles and spend time investigating how they all piece together.

At Home:

Home you may see your child using ties, scarves belts etc to tie around toys to move/drag them around the room. They may line up their toys in an order or sequence and get upset if they are moved about or touched.

How can we support this:

-Provide your child with duplo, lego, building blocks to connect together and build with.

-Use of Junk modeling and art and craft to provide a variety of opportunities to cut, rip, tear, stick, tie, staple and weave items together in a variety of manners.

-Jigsaws and Car / train tracks for them to explore the different ways of fitting them together.


To begin with children may put their thumb or fingers in and out of their mouth. They may spend time filling up and emptying containers of all kinds using any items or materials that they can find. They will become fascinated with climbing into large cartons/boxes and sitting in them as tunnels and even build ‘cages’ with blocks or toys as play develops. Children often become eager to empty bags, boxes drawers, envelopes etc and refill with anything!

At home:

Drawers and cupboards will become a new favourite toy with items being emptied and perhaps put away somewhere different. Maybe your keys , remote controls or phones get moved to a new and more exciting place that only they know about.

How we can support this:

-Provide large boxes, cartons or baskets that they can empty or refill with toys or materials. Sand, water, beads etc could be used with containers or bottles with funnels and children will have a great time filling and emptying them. (At beach/ in the bath etc.)


A child may be seen to order of sort themselves or their toys. They might put items on their heads or spend a lot of time trying to balance toys on furniture. Children showing this schema may prefer their food separated on the plate and not mixed up or close together e.g their custard next to their sponge not over it and may often spend time stretched on the floor or under the tables.

At home:

Your child might begin to become particular with the way that their food is placed on the plate and refuse to eat it If it is not a certain way. They may spend vast amounts of time lining up and ordering their toys or your furniture, eg to make a bus or train with your chairs etc.

How we can support this:

-Provide your child with lots of space or assistance in ordering or sorting their toys in specific ways, eg by size, colour or type.

-Allow child to help with the preparation of food and putting it onto the plate in the manner that they want.


– A child may like to experiment or investigate with the changes of the resources when they are altered with, eg mixing paint colours together, adding sand to the water tray or vice versa and adding and mixing the ingredients together when baking. They will enjoy manipulating soft toys or equipment that they are able to.

At home:

Children may be observed as wanting to add their juice or water to their food. They will be interested in seeing what happens when they paint or draw on different materials or surfaces, ie on your walls or furniture as well as on the paper they were given.

How we can support this:

-Provide lots of opportunities for them to investigate and manipulate resources, eg LOTS of messy play such as gloop, shaving foam, jelly, spaghetti etc.

-Baking activities that will allow them to mix up the ingredients and view what haooens.

In Summary:

Although children often show particular schemas in their play, not all children appear especially schematic. Some show one particular schema particularly strongly and others show several at once.
Sometimes one schema which has been particularly strong will seem to fade, possibly to be replaced by another.

There is no timescale or clear order that the children may show these in, it is all completely based on their interest at that moment in time.