Home Toys What Is a Schema? A Guide to How Toddlers Play and Learn

What Is a Schema? A Guide to How Toddlers Play and Learn

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Schema is a term that describes the way that children learn, and how they play. It also has to do with the physical environment of a child’s home. A schema is an organized system of knowledge that helps children understand the world around them.

A schema is a theory of how toddlers play and learn. It was created by the psychologist Jean Piaget. Read more in detail here: child development schema theory.

What exactly is a schema?

A schema functions similarly to a collection of instructions. We utilize them all the time as grownups, and we aren’t even aware of it. You’re using a schema to turn on a light or prepare a sandwich; a mental model you’ve developed through trial and error to discover the best and most efficient method to do your job.

Our models aren’t always correct. What makes them unique is that they reflect the current level of our understanding. As we learn more and dig deeper, we discover that there were certain holes in our knowledge. After that, we can update our schema to reflect the new data. I misplace a football. It springs back to life. I accidentally drop a tennis ball. It springs back to life. Balls bounce, according to my schema. However, one day I dropped a ball of play dough and it didn’t bounce. I make a change to my schema: balls that bounce back into form after being crushed. Balls that don’t work won’t work. That is, until I attempt to drop a golf ball…

Schema play is particularly evident in toddlers. Destruction testing is a major element of this kind of action, which includes bashing, pounding, pushing, and tugging. What is the purpose of this device? What happens if I accidentally drop it? Is it going to shatter if I bump it? What if I hit it once more? Your kid is desperate for answers to all of these questions and will not stop until she has them. One action at a time, she is attempting to make sense of the world.

Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist, observed that children of comparable ages made similar errors. As a result, he hypothesized that learning occurs in phases, with youngsters progressing to higher levels as they mature. He examined how schema play aided this shift as part of his hypothesis. You may learn more about it by clicking here.

What is the total number of schemas?

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It is debatable. For our purposes, we’ll stick to eight, but the number is theoretically unlimited. Follow the links to the schemas that interest you, or continue reading to learn more about schema play and why it matters.

Why are schemas important?

After a kid has grasped the physical embodiment of a schema, they may explore more abstract applications. For example, after we’ve practiced moving things from one location to another, such as rolling a toy vehicle across the floor or taking a doll out of her box and placing her in the doll’s home, the idea of sending a picture to Grandma becomes simpler to grasp.

In schema play, children may also learn by utilizing their own bodies. The simple act of walking from point A to point B helps children grasp the concept of trajectory, or traveling from point A to point B.

When does schema play take place?

Schema play is something we all do when we meet something for the first time, but it is most common in toddlers. You’re employing a schema when you attempt to build an IKEA bookshelf without reading the directions. You’ve done this before, so you know what to do. A little trial and error is OK. And if anything new has to be fixed, you’ll figure it out. It all began when you were a kid, when you were constructing with Legos and putting things together with tape and glue. You have a good understanding of how things work together.

What you won’t do is whirl like a windmill, twist doorknobs, or stand there watching the washing machine spin. Because toddlers haven’t completely understood the concept of rotation, they must practice in order to learn the schema. Their schema is on display. You, on the other hand, are well-versed in the subject, so you just take up the screwdriver and assemble the components.

As a result, your child’s interest in a certain schema will wane with time. Once the idea has been understood, what looked like an obsession fades away.

What are the most common schema types?

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Identifying the schema that your kid is interested in is very rewarding. You may then provide toys and activities to assist children in getting the most out of their research.

Here are a few of the most well-known schemas in toddlers. They’re mainly about movement, although a schema may be about anything in theory.


Is your child prone to throwing items out of their stroller or dropping food from their highchair? Or does your child like blowing bubbles, playing catch, or creating paper airplanes while objects swing from side to side (like a pendulum on a clock)? Then students investigate their trajectory schema, which entails looking at how an item, or their own body, moves through the air.

It may be difficult for an adult serving dinner to share a baby’s delight in throwing their food on the floor, but consolation can be found in knowing that your kid is participating in vital scientific research. Will it splatter or smash? How long do you think it’ll take you to get to the ground? These early efforts to comprehend and manipulate trajectory lead to the more well-known abilities of throwing, catching, and kicking, as well as driving, tennis, and launching rockets to the moon.

Try This:

  • hurling something at a target
  • pursuing games, such as tag
  • observing where a toy falls after being pushed off the table
  • Cars are rolled down a ramp.

Toys Recommended:

  • railway made of wood
  • cars
  • balls


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The linking schema may be seen in the joining of railway lines, the construction of structures out of Lego or wooden blocks, and the use of tape to hold objects together. Perhaps your kid enjoys joining arms with you or other people in order to feel more physically connected.

Connecting and disconnecting are two sides of the same coin, which is why a kid may construct a tower of blocks only to tear it down later – or knock down someone else’s tower.

When your kid investigates the concept of connection, he or she will begin to comprehend how some objects join together and others break apart, as well as concepts such as strength and magnetic force, stickiness, purchase, and slippiness.

Understanding that this is a natural need and allowing it to manifest in a secure setting can provide your kid with many hours of enjoyable play.

Try This:

  • hand in hand
  • paper tangles
  • junk-modeling and collage

Toys Recommended:

  • bead threading
  • connecta straws, lego, duplo, octons
  • blu-tack, sellotape, glue, stapler (with supervision! ),
  • railway made of wood


Is your kid always transporting things from one location to another? Is the walker constantly laden with bricks, or is the basket always brimming with teddies? If this sounds like your kid, he or she is experimenting with their transportation schema. Children like moving things from point A to point B in terms of transportation. For a young kid, transporting is extremely gratifying since they get a lot of satisfaction from accomplishing a job and seeing something happen as a consequence of their efforts.

Pushchairs, walkers, baskets, and bags are all excellent ways to assist the need for transportation. Transporters may be very useful, so if you’re unloading your groceries and need someone to put all of the apples in the fruit bowl or carry the toilet paper upstairs, this is your labor. Gardening and water play are other excellent methods children learn about transportation; wheelbarrows and buckets are always popular. Focus on moving tiny objects that need picking up with fingers, such as conkers, acorns, or pebbles, to add a fine motor component to the transferring desire.


The enclosing schema is about establishing boundaries and is similar to the enveloping schema but has its own personality.

Do you have a daughter who enjoys making enclosures for her toys? Is it better to build a farm fence out of blocks or string? Perhaps your kid likes looping the line around smaller markings already on the paper to make circles. The enclosing schema seems to be quite similar to the enveloping schema at first sight (no. 83 in the 100). Both require wrapping something around you, but that’s where the resemblance stops. Unlike engulfing, which surrounds an item and frequently hides it from view, enclosing merely holds it in place. It’s the difference between a blanketed doll and a horse in a pasture.

Enclosers like drawing faces, with the eyes and mouth on the inside and the hair and ears on the outside. The drawings of an enveloper, on the other hand, are focused on making things vanish. They may sketch a lovely scene just to totally destroy it with paint, filling the whole page in a single hue. There’s nothing left of the original.

Children learn that things – or thoughts – may be confined in a distinct space when they enclose them. And everything outside of this is a distinct entity.

Enclosing eventually leads to letter creation. The dextrous hand that initially holds a crayon and makes infinite spirals on the paper gradually transforms into the balled fist that draws circles for the letters ‘o’, ‘p’, and ‘d’. It’s also important for sketching people’s faces and bodies. If you leave a space between the lines, the color will seep out.

The evolution of the enclosing schema occurs organically, as it does with any schema play. However, if you are aware of it, you may offer chances for practice and improvement.



Do you have a kid that enjoys arranging her toys in a certain way? Is it true that he spends hours setting up his vehicles in a row or that he enjoys making sceneries or displays? Then your kid is trying to figure out what their placement schema is. From setting the table and putting shoes beneath pegs to establishing patterns in arithmetic and keeping tidy work in school books, positioning offers early foundations for many important abilities and activities.

Collect shells and stones from the beach, or sticks from the yard, and see if you can make a symmetrical design with them to support a blooming placement schema. You might assemble your friends or family and pretend to be a bus, playing games like rounders that require placement. Balance games like Jenga and Connect 4 are excellent for fine motor development, as are making patterns with threading beads and basic stacking and building with blocks or Lego.


Do you have a kid that enjoys building dens, climbing into boxes, or dressing up in numerous layers of clothes, such as multiple necklaces or hats? Or do they like to stuff empty boxes with random items, cover dolls in blankets, and make houses for their toys? If that’s the case, they may be experimenting with their enclosing schema.

Your kid is attempting to figure out what happens if they wrap or conceal an item in this schema. Is it still possible for me to view it? Is it something I can sense? What if I wrap it in a light-colored fabric? Or is it better to use paper? Or stow it up in a closet? Is it still there when I open or unwrap the package?

When a kid is exploring the concept of engulfing, they may drop your keys behind the radiator or open the trash and peek inside.

If you think your child is an enveloper, try the following activities to help them with their research:

  • Posting toys, Russian dolls, nesting toys, and shape sorters are all good ideas.
  • Wrap blankets around baby dolls.
  • With a lot of bandages, pretend to be a doctor or a vet.
  • Make puppets out of socks or gloves.
  • Packages should be wrapped (Christmas is a wonderful time for envelopers!) and ribbons, as well as paper, newspaper, thread, sellotape, and other materials


Children use their rotation schema when they spin, roll down a hill, or simply wrap their hair around a pencil. Wheels, twirly straws, being swung around by an adult, watching the washing machine, and ring-a-roses are all examples of rotational experiences.

Everything from rotational symmetry in mathematics and spinning magnetic fields in high school physics to disco dancing and party parcel passing is built on this study and comprehension of the infinite inherent in circles. It It all began when you were six months old and dropped a ball that rolled away.

The following are some excellent rotation-supporting activities:

  • Connect the nuts and bolts together.
  • Cars, trains, and bicycles all have wheels.
  • Twitch streamers are people who livestream on the internet.
  • (Under supervision!) use screwdrivers and spanners.
  • Pinwheels should be made.
  • Turn the keys in padlocks and locks.
  • Spirals may be drawn in sand or using finger paint.
  • Cake ingredients should be mixed and whisked together.


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If your kid enjoys swinging upside down from the monkey bars, lying on the top of the couch, or sitting in the shopping trolley facing the wrong way, they are experimenting with their orientation schema. During orientation, your kid will learn how to look at things from a new perspective. This crucial schema boosts confidence in a variety of physical sports and games, especially when it comes to anticipating how another player would move.

Try walking along walls, rolling down hills, going up stairs, or any other activity that challenges them to discover various heights or positions to promote orientation schema play. Gymnastics, games like Twister, soft play, or a simple walk to the park are all excellent ways to discover new perspectives. Of course, there’s always the option of climbing trees.

Try This:

  • dangle from monkey bars upside down
  • When playing with toy cars, lie flat on the floor.
  • see the world from the vantage point of an adult’s shoulders

The enveloping schema activities are a type of play that children engage in. This includes playing with toys, drawing, and using their imagination.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a schema toddler?

A schema toddler is a baby with an autism spectrum disorder.

What is a schema play?

A schema play is when a player has to do something in order to get another thing. For example, if you have to hit the ball three times before it goes into the hole, that would be considered a schema play.

What is schema in early childhood?

Schemas are mental structures that organize and understand the world. They are an important part of how our brains process information.