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Thinking about Play Schemas

Have you ever noticed your child doing the same thing over and over? What is it about repetitive play that is so important to children?

How many times have we picked up the spoon that has been flung from the highchair? Too many to count. But each time a child drops or throws the spoon, they are learning about the world around them.

These repetitive play behaviours are often called Play Schemas. When engaging in repetitive play behaviours, a child can work on identifying patterns and organizing new information that they receive from their environment.

Let’s think about our baby in the highchair. When they throw the spoon down, over and over, they are learning so many things! The spoon disappears when I throw it, but then it comes back. It makes a sound when it hits the floor. It bounces off the edge. It takes my sweet potato with it. My caregiver makes a funny face when I do this.

As a child grows and changes, their repetitive play behaviours change too!

Here are 10 of the most common play schemas:

  1. CONNECTING: Joining things together, opening and closing things

  2. DESTROYING: Knocking things down, crushing, or deconstructing things

  3. GATHERING: Collecting or gathering materials

  4. GIVING/TAKING: Bringing and retrieving materials to/from another person

  5. HIDING: Hiding or covering oneself, someone else, or materials

  6. ORDERING: Arranging materials in rows or certain patterns

  7. ROTATING: Spinning, rolling, and turning objects or oneself

  8. SOUND: Making noise or music with materials or oneself

  9. TRANSPORTING: Carrying materials from one place to another

  10. TRAJECTORY: Moving objects by throwing, dropping, rolling, and moving oneself

These repetitive play behaviours are a natural part of children’s play and development. Children are persistent and determined.

Celebrate those repetitions! By encouraging repetitive patterns in your child’s play and offering more ideas and materials that align with their current play schema, you are helping them learn!

Learn more about how to support your child’s play schemas in our blog post “How do I Choose the Right Loose Parts?”.

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