Child playing with wooden sticks

What is a Schema?

‘Follow the child, they will show you what they need to do, what they need to develop in themselves and what area they need to be challenged in.’ Maria Montessori

A schema is a pattern of behaviour through which children develop and learn. Early reflexes in babyhood such as sucking, grasping and vocalising develop and refine into schemas.

Schemas can become obvious to you by observing your child over a period of time (some schemas are easier to note than others!). There are many different kinds of schemas and because your child is as unique as the next, he/she will develop in his/her on way using his/her own schemas.

By watching your child at play in the classroom and with your help at home, these schemas can be appreciated as important strategies used by your child to make sense of and develop an understanding of the world.

By providing appropriate experiences for your child, we can together help him/her to work through their dominant schema. Your child needs to experience a variety of stimulating activities in order to nourish and support their schemas.

This short guide will, hopefully help you to identify, understand and enjoy your child’s schemas.

Here are some examples of schemas:

Is your child fascinated by things moving or flying through the air? Does he/she enjoy jumping off objects or making trails? The ‘Trajectory’ schema is all about straight lines – up, down and across – moving or stationary.

Does your child have an interest in things that turn? He/she may enjoy rolling objects along or roly-polying down the hill. Twisting lids on and off might be another favourite activity!

Do your child’s drawings and paintings show dots and blobs, either forming random patterns or parts of flowers, buttons etc? Stamping feet and splashing in puddles is another display of dabbing.

Is your child fascinated by objects with holes in them? He/she may dig holes in the garden or cut holes in paper. This schema is often connected to the dabbing schema.

Does your child build enclosures with bricks or blocks? He/she may border a painting or drawing with an uninterrupted line.

Does your child wrap up things, spend hours in the bath towel at night or put things in boxes and cover them with lids? He/she may have drawn beautiful pictures only to cover them over with scribbles or paint.

Does your child enjoy moving objects around from one area to another? He/she may use a bag, pram, trolley or truck to take or move objects.

Scattering and Heaping
Does your child delight in moving a collection of objects and either pile them up in a heap or scatter them all around? He/she may take the toy box and tip the contents into the middle of the floor!