Blog surfing as I do, I came across this post which had a link to this document about schemas in early childhood. A schema seems to a ‘theme’ that is particularly apparent in a childs play at a particular point in time. So, for example one of the schema is ‘transporting’ – which you will see if your child has a ‘Picking things up, moving them, and putting them down or dumping them. Perhaps using pram, bag, basket, truck or wheelbarrow. Usually has full hands’.
According to the article (which first appeared in the New Zealand Playcentre Association Journal) “Schemas are extremely useful because children's passions are what drives them to become most deeply engaged and deep engagement is what we need to identify in order to support and scaffold children's learning most effectively” It might just be me, but I think this is fascinating. Of course, it is just common sense when you look at the document – think about the things your child is really passionate about and then apply those across different areas of play.
However, being just a little bit too academic for my own good I love having a model to work with. Already today it has really changed the way I play with Munchkin. Her main ‘schema’ (it’s a dreadful word isn’t it – please someone think of a more intuitive label for it) is transporting which I mentioned above, but she’s also into ‘Enclosure and Enveloping’ - Surrounds things. Likes getting inside a defined area e.g. a block building, tyre or barrel. Gets into boxes. Covers completely, wraps up. Hides. Gets into boxes and closes lids”
So today, when I wanted to find something for her to play with at the café (wasn’t I lucky having Sunday brunch out!) I consciously thought about these two schema, and gave her some spoons, a sugar sachet and a plastic cup to hide them in. She had a ball … because I was providing opportunities for her to explore what she is passionate about. I have more consciously encouraged her ‘shopping game’ – and hours today were spent putting things in her little hand-bag and taking them around the house (transportation schema). Later this evening I set up a small table for her with some full cans of (unopened) drink, a cardboard box and a wide mouthed jam jar.
This matrix made me realise how often I try to show Munchkin things to play with that just aren’t what she is interested in – things like making sand castles or building towers (connecting) when she actually wants to fill buckets of sand, move sand from one end to the other, and then push buckets of sand around in a wheel barrow.
Schema’s aren’t a concept I’ve come across before – I am not sure if they are Playcentre specific or are used more widely in early childhood education, let alone in the Steiner/Waldorf context but I’d love to know.
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