Published by CELA on 15 Oct, 2018

You might be aware of schema for infants – such as the schema that helps newborns to suck or grasp. Schemas continue on through a child’s development, and identifying and understanding children’s schemas can provide important information.

In this post, a new guest writer for Amplify, Casey Francis, of Gunning Early Learning Centre in rural NSW, describes how to identify and  make use of schemas to help children progress in their development of the Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS).

Munch & Move coordinator, Casey has nearly 20 years experience working in rural long day care services and mobile preschools and is supported by Gunning Early Learning Centre’s Director, Lynn Morphett and Educational Leader, Libby Eather.

The resources in the article have been developed by Gunning Early Learning Centre in partnership with Southern NSW Local Health District as part of NSW Health’s Munch & Move program.

The article includes useful references and a helpful table to download or print – great for students or to share in a staff development discussion.

Schema theory

Have you ever observed a child, continually moving things around, insisting on a particular order for objects? This child is demonstrating a positioning schema, learning about order, logic and symmetry.

Schemas are the urges that children have to do things – often repetitively.  They emerge through play, and the repetitive nature of the behaviours help the brain to form connections and master skills.

Schema theory can be identified as the journey from perception to integrating experience and thinking.

(Martin, 2008)

While working on schemas, children will look engaged and concentrating on their play.  Children may display one very dominant schema, or may display a number of schemas.  Schemas evolve over time.

Schemas are rooted in Piaget’s cognitive development theory.  Children learn when their prior understanding and knowledge (schemas) is changed (accommodated) by taking in new information (assimilation). By recognising and understanding children’s schemas, we can support their development.

Not all children have schemas that are easy to recognise and respond to – they can be difficult to observe at times in individual children, but wonderfully rewarding!

How you fit in

Early childhood educators play an important role in creating individual learning environments that is rich in resources and materials and purposefully supporting the development of concepts by scaffolding and extending learning.

FMS practice can be effective when it supports children’s natural learning behaviours and patterns.

The planning, documenting and evaluating cycle supports educators to use their observations of child’s interests to inform planning.

Educators can support development of FMS using a child’s schemas by:

  1. Observing – when you observe children over time you will begin to see patterns of repeated behaviour, which can help you identify their current schema.
  2. Supporting – subtly support the child’s actions, offer resources and plan repeated, real and first-hand experiences that will motivate them to extend further.
  3. Extending – plan resources and FMS opportunities to extend the child’s skill and use of a schema, at the child’s pace.

Schemas are just one way of thinking and talking about child development – there are lots of others.

Not all children have schemas that are easy to recognise and respond to – they can be difficult to observe at times in individual children, but wonderfully rewarding!

 
 This may look like
 You could promote  fundamental movement skills development by…
 In practice…
 Positioning
 Lining up toys

 

 Aligning objects

 Ordering objects

 Setting up a bowling game to practice underarm rolling.

 

 Encouraging the child to line up a number of objects to run around or leap over.

 Stacking cans to throw balls or beanbags towards.

 

 This child repetitively lines up objects, including these cars, demonstrating the urge to ‘position’ items and explore place and sequence.

 Trajectory
 Throwing and dropping objects

 

 Climbing up objects

 Jumping off objects

 Providing different sizes and weights of balls to throw or roll.

 

 Offering wet sponges to throw at a target.

 Providing bubbles, feathers, scarves or tissue paper to chase and catch.

 

 Bubble play creates the opportunity to interact with moving things. These children are chasing bubbles using multi-dimensional movements and exploring patterns of movement.

 Connecting
 Joining train tracks or connecting Lego

 

 Running string from one place to another

 Deconstructing buildings or sandcastles

 Asking the child to help construct an obstacle course to develop climbing, coordination and balancing skills.

 

 Challenging the child to create a pathway to roll a ball, such as through the legs of a chair or through a cardboard box tunnel.

 Playing ‘follow the leader’, ring-a-rosy or forming a conga line.

 

 With the opportunity to help construct an obstacle course to include climbing, co-ordination and balancing, the children are promoting the ‘connecting’ schema with FMS

 Enclosing
 Filling up cups with water

 

 Building fences for animals

 Creating a circular train track

 Using skipping ropes and hula hoops to provide game set-ups.

 

 Providing an assortment of baskets and boxes to kick a ball or beanbag into.

 Practicing kicking a ball so that it passes under a chair to you, gradually increasing the number of chairs.

  

 The ‘enclosing’ schema urges children to put objects in to a container. Here the children are placing bean bags in to a container by throwing the bean bag from a distance.

 Transporting
 Carrying lots of things at once

 

 Using a wheelbarrow

 Filling and moving jars, buckets or baskets

 Adding equipment to movement games, such as a trolley to push, or beanbags to transport.

 

 Challenging a child to use different locomotor skills as they move around the learning environment.

 Exploring distance and directions using locomotor skills.

 

 Collecting acorns in a sieve gives the children the opportunity to transport the acorns around the outdoor environment

 Rotating
 Turning wheels

 

 Drawing circles

 Spinning on the spot

 Swinging around

 Introducing group games based on a large circle, such as duck, duck goose.

 

 Rolling balls, hoops or quoits.

 Twisting ribbons or scarves.

 

 This group of children are playing ‘Roly Poly’. This game allows the children to explore the movement of circular objects, as they spin, twist and roll the ball.

 Orienteering
 Trying to see things from another point of view

 

 Climbing up high or hanging upside down

 Getting down low or underneath something

 Providing opportunities to jump off a height.

 

 Hanging interesting targets from a tree at different heights to jump towards.

 Providing time, space and resources to balance on different structures.

 

 By offering the chance to jump off heights, like this tree, the children are able to see the world from different viewpoints.

 Enveloping
 Wrapping things in fabric

 

 Having a sheet over your head

 Playing peek-a-boo or hiding

 Playing ‘Jack In The Box’ to practice jumping.

 

 Dropping soft scarves from a height to catch.

 Playing with the parachute.

 

 Parachute play allows the opportunity for children to be covered and hidden by the parachute as they conceal themselves.

 Transforming
 Mixing two substances

 

 Adding water to dirt

 Blending colours of paint or playdough

 Exploring the change when hopping or jumping through puddles, mud or sand.

 

 Providing detergent for making bubbles to catch.

 Encouraging whole-body movement in messy play

  Encouraging the whole body movement in messy play, like jumping through paint allows children to experiment with cause and effect. What happens when we step in paint and walk across paper?

 

Transportating 

 

Further Reading

  • Athey, C (1990) Extending Thought in Young Children: A Parent-Teacher Partnership, London, Chapman Press
  • Atherton, F and Nutbrown, C (2013) Understanding Schemas and Young Children: From Birth to Three, London, Sage Publications
  • Louis, S, Beswick, C, Magraw, L, Hayes, L and Featherstone, S (ed) (2013) Understanding Schemas in Young Children: Again! Again! London, Bloomsbury Publishing
  • Martin, M. (2008) ‘Chris Athey; John Dewey.’ Early Years Educator. Volume 10 No 3. pp 24-26
  • Van Wijk, N (2008) Getting Started with Schemas: Revealing the Wonder-full World of Children’s Play, Auckland, Playcentre Publications

Casey Francis is the Munch & Move Coordinator at Gunning Early Learning Centre. This resource has been developed by Gunning Early Learning Centre in partnership with Southern NSW Local Health District as part of NSW Health’s Munch & Move® program.  For more information and ideas on healthy eating and physical activity go to www.healthykids.nsw.gov.au

Meet the author

Casey Francis

Casey Francis is the Munch & Move Coordinator at Gunning Early Learning Centre. Casey has nearly 20 years experience working in rural long day care services and mobile preschools and is supported by Gunning Early Learning Centre's Director, Lynn Morphett and Educational Leader, Libby Eather.This resource (Schemas for Fundamental Movement Skills) has been developed by Gunning Early Learning Centre in partnership with Southern NSW Local Health District as part of NSW Health’s Munch & Move® program. For more information and ideas on healthy eating and physical activity go to www.healthykids.nsw.gov.au

About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.

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