What are Schemas?

Does your child love to fill bags or containers with tiny things they have found? Are they really interested in wheels, roundabouts or rolling things? Did you know these patterns of play are examples of schemas, behaviours that children go through when they are exploring the world and trying to find out how things work?

From birth children have particular patterns of behaviour – like sucking and grasping schemas in babies. Researchers believe there are a number of different schemas; vertical (going up and down), enclosure (putting things inside other things), circular (going round and round), going over and undergoing through. Others have identified other patterns that have dominated children’s play such as ‘connecting’.

Eventually, simple schemas that involve vertical, horizontal and circular movements   increase in number and complexity, becoming integrated and coordinated. Early schemas provide the basis for later learning and the development of abstract thought. This learning underpins the development of English and Mathematics skills.

By going through these schemas, children are equipping themselves with the knowledge and skills that lay the foundations for almost everything we do in later life, from writing to driving a car.


For pupils working at a pre-subject specific level of learning, learning develops through sensorimotor experiences (absorbing information through what they see, taste, touch, hear and smell and through their own movements) and symbolic representation (when they make something stand for something else).

Pupils are given a wide range of opportunities to explore and meaningfully develop different schemas; such as trajectory, orientation, connecting, rotation, enclosing, enveloping, positioning and transporting. At High Park we place particular emphasis on developing and extending preferred schemas into more age appropriate activities.

For more information

The CBBC Programme Twirlywoos is based on schemas and has a helpful guide for parents to find out more. Each episode of of Twirlywoos is based around a different schema (the links are on the sidebar).