Behavioral Schemas – fun stuff y’all! These are the coolest little signs to be aware of – proof right before your eyes that your child is developing and unfolding, without you doing a dang thing! I spent a lot of time the first few years as a new Mom, wondering if my Daughter was developing properly… first she was just a little blob, then she took forever to sit-up and then even longer to walk… iyiyi, there’s a lot to worry about! Long story short, I eventually chilled out, and being aware of these simple signs that she was, in fact developing, were really fun and helpful – to this day I love spotting them! 

“Play is the highest form of research.”

-Albert Einstein

What is a Behavioral Schema?

I’m so glad you asked – the term “behavioral schemas” was originally coined by developmental psychologist, Jean Piaget. He described a set of behavioral patterns, which on the outside look messy, annoying or even pointless, (spinning, piling one million stickers on top of each other) but in reality, these patterns are how children acquire understanding and knowledge to use in the real world. Nature hard at work, once again! Studies have shown that no matter where in the world a child lives, or what their culture is like, they display these same patterns of behavior. Once aware of these patterns, it can become quite interesting to sit back and observe. BONUS – The repetitive nature of these patterns can lead to long spurts of independent play, yay! 

Six Schemas

Transporting – This one is my favorite. Have you ever noticed your child gathering items in a container, then transporting  them across the room, dumping them out and doing it again? This is your child hard at work, building mental models that will serve them through their entire life! 

Trajectory – My daughter does this one a lot on the edge of the bathtub. Simply lining up in a straight line, toys or anything they can get their little hands on is the trajectory schema.

Enclosing/Enveloping – Wrapping themselves up like a burrito, wrapping up household objects  using blankets or pieces of paper, wrapping or enclosing anything = enclosing/enveloping schema! 

Transforming – Mixing all the beautiful paint colors to equal brown, or as my daughter loves to scream – POOP color! Or when they can’t possibly be full yet and start mashing their food together to make a lovely “soup” = transforming schema!! 

Circulating – Spinning in circles, rolling around, watching the fan go round and round = circulating schema!

Connecting – This was an interesting one for me to witness for the first time. My daughter asked for scissors so she could “cut people”,  thankfully these people were in pictures and after she sliced and diced them – she asked for tape, so she could put them back together, fhew! Stacking lego or block towers, and a love of sticker stacking, velcro and tape, are the magic of the connecting schema. 

Lather, Rinse, Repeat…

You know how many “failed” attempts it took before your child could walk? Well that’s how many times they will enjoy getting lost in expressing these schemas! Simple open-ended invitations to play, like rocks and a bucket (notice I said “and” not “in”), different colored paint/water + a cup and a spoon, stuffed animals and a blanket, the list goes on and on – will allow your child to get lost in play as they repeat the same patterns over and over. 

Play is the “work” of children, in fact the only way they can truly learn is while in a state of play. If you’re usually heavily involved in your child’s play, try stepping back and observing. Our children need us, A LOT – but consider letting play be one of the places they have most of the control. It’s when they are truly able to relax into play that the magic happens! For weekly tips and reminders of what an amazing parent you are – sign up for my newsletter here!