For those of you who don’t know, I am an Early Childhood Educator. I have worked in the Early Childhood sector for 3 and a 1/2 years now and this year my passion for Early Education and Care has come to life. I am a learner, I love to learn. This year I have been really focusing on learning as much as I can before I go back to uni next year and tonight I am going to share with you some information to help you understand your child/ren and also yourself. So yes, this is aimed at Mums and Mums-to-be in the hope that I can share my knowledge and help you in some way. However, if you keep reading, you may understand a bit more about why you do certain things as an adult. These posts which I’ve named ‘Baby Bear and Me’ (also, not pregnant in case you’re wondering) won’t be posted too often as that is not where my blog’s niche is at in this point in time. However, it is a topic I am passionate about and it is a topic I will write about more in the future when it is the appropriate time. So don’t fret, you won’t hear baby talk too often just yet!
If you’re anything like me when you’re with a child, you’ve probably asked yourself a version of at least one of these questions, “Why are you doing that? Why are you pushing your food off the table? Why are you throwing things inside? Why are you mixing vegemite sandwiches with strawberry yoghurt? Why do you have to do that yourself? Let me help you.” Am I right? The things I say in my head some days… Let me tell you! There is actually a reason for why your child does all of these things. In a word, they’re called schemas, early childhood schemas to be exact. Now, you’re probably wondering what the heck schemas are, don’t worry, I’m about to explain.
Schemas are basically a fancy word for the urges your child has during his or her play. Small children have the urge to climb, throw things, knock things over and hide, these are all schemas. Comparatively, as an adult you may like to arrange your cushions or desk a certain way, you know the feeling of being up high or upside down and you may find yourself tidying your house. These activities are all extensions of schemas. Throughout your child’s play, all of these things can be the way they choose to complete an activity or something that they seem to desperately need to do. Schemas are an urge to do something. Schemas are they building blocks of the brain, the repeated behaviours forge connections in the brain for learning and growth. These urges can come on one at a time, or be a big surge of a bunch of them at once. Each child is different and unique. By knowing about these schemas, you will be able to recognise and support your child through their urges and development and you will have a better understanding of why you do certain things as an adult. I am going to briefly describe each schema below to help you understand and recognise them.
Orientation – This is the urge to hang upside down, climb on top of the dining room table or hide under the bed. It is the urge to see their world from another perspective. I’m sure you understand what it is like to hang upside down or climb up high to see something better or differently and that is because as a child you discovered these orientations. I’m sure you probably don’t hang upside down too often these days but we all know what these positions feel like because we have the experience. In order for your child to know what these positions feel like, they must manoeuvre themselves into these positions.
Positioning – Do you find yourself tidying up your house, keeping your desk clean, setting cushions in a certain order or setting the table for dinner? That is your extension of the positioning schema. Your child might line up objects like cars or animals or turn their bowl of food upside down. Your child is experiencing the positioning schema and this is one that is kept alive in us to this day.
Connection – Joining train tracks, building towers and playing with lego are all urges of connection. This schema can also include disconnecting, so knocking over towers and sandcastles are all part of this schema. Some adults regularly build things and take them apart as their job, and you betcha, you learnt to do that as a child.
Trajectory – I think we all know the meaning of this one! This is the urge to throw, drop, jump off or complete other actions of movement. Some other trajectory actions include climbing up and jumping off, running things under water and of course the throwing and dropping. For example, that bowl of food you just lovingly cooked for them. They’re not throwing it just to annoy you or because they don’t like it, they’re learning about trajectory. The trajectory can be diagonal, vertical or horizontal, it doesn’t matter, in the first years of life, all learning is based on movement. How do you think you learned to throw and catch a ball, jump off a step or know what to do when you drop something…
Enclosure/container – This is the urge to fill buckets with sand or water, climb into cardboard boxes or cupboards or categorise their toys. As an adult, you know how to fill containers when you’re serving out food, I’m sure you categorise at least one thing in your life, whether that be your books or your kitchen and you know how to pack a bag.
Transporting – Transporting can be the urge that your child has when they want to carry many things in their hands at once, in jars, in buckets, in bags or baskets. It is also the urge to push things like trolleys or prams. I’m sure you’ve experienced at some point or another, when you’re at the supermarket and your child won’t do anything unless they’re doing it themselves. They don’t want to just walk along, they want to carry things, they’re learning how to transport objects, learning how to do grocery shopping as an adult, they’re developing kindness and a nurturing personality by pushing a pram and they’re learning how much they are capable of carrying, no matter how long it takes them to get from point A to point B. Time means nothing to a small child.
Enveloping – Enveloping is putting a sheet over your head or wrapping things up in blankets or fabric. An extension of the enveloping schema is the classic game, peek-a-boo. Now you see me, now you don’t, it’s a concept that never get’s old. It’s as an adult making your bed, wrapping a present or putting a tablecloth on a table. These are all extensions of the enveloping schema.
Rotation – Anything that goes around in circular motions, wheels, spinning tops, doing roly poly’s, watching the washing machine, drawing circles, spinning around on the spot (until they subsequently fall over from dizziness) or being swung around by the arms are all experiences of the rotation schema. You know as an adult how rotation works and I’m sure you don’t find watching the washing machine go round and round as fascinating as you did when you were two. However, to a two year old, it is amazing.
Transformation – Transformation is an urge that can come in many different forms. It can include your child holding all of their food in their mouth to see what it turns into, it could be your child mixing their sandwich with their yoghurt, mixing sand and water or helping with cooking experiences. It is only natural that once a child has explored and discovered raw material that they will want to investigate it further. As an adult, you understand that if you put cake batter in a hot oven, it will cook and make a cake. Until a child learns and understands the transformation schema, a child will be shocked or confused about objects or materials transforming.
Early years schemas usually start to arise anywhere from 6 months or so. That’s what I have found anyway. Your child may be earlier or later than this and that’s OK! As a parent, one of the best things about having an understanding of these urges is that you are able to recognise and support them in your children as soon as you see them. Of course, once upon a time, usually when your child was becoming a toddler, these schemas might’ve once been called ‘inappropriate behaviours’ but once you have an understanding of these schemas, you are able to recognise the urge and redirect it. Your child will be just as happy to throw something outside where it is safer. It’s not about the action, it’s about the urge.
I hope this has explained a bit about your child or even about yourself. If you’re still reading, thank you! I know this is a long post but it is definitely an area I am passionate about and an area that I wish to share my knowledge about. If you could leave a comment telling me what you thought, that would be great and really appreciated! I hope you have had a wonderful weekend and that you have a fantastic week ahead!