Play Schemas

While not strictly Montessori, understanding schemas is not only important for educators in order to understand their students & to adapt their curriculum, but recognising play schemas is also incredibly useful for parents. Play schemas complement & align with the Montessori method & having an understanding of play schemas as a parent can assist you in creating your prepared environment & help you introduce different Montessori Practical Life Activities that support their schema interests.

So what is a schema?

A schema is a cognitive framework that helps your little one interpret & organise information. Once a schema is created, your toddler is able to use this as a mental map in order to process similar information.
Play schemas are patterns of repeatable behaviour that children regularly display to help them make sense of their world. When children display repetitive behaviours like throwing, they are developing something called a play schema. Play schemas are how children learn about the world around them & develop essential tools for interacting with that world. Sometimes you may notice that your little one is exhibiting an unwanted or quirky behaviour, such as throwing cutlery off their high chair or tipping out containers – this shows us that they are in a particular play schema - when they repeat the same behaviour over & over – in this example they are learning cause & effect, trial & error, and even the Scientific Method.
Acknowledging that a particular behaviour or action is really an uncontrollable urge & that they are learning while doing it, can be helpful in more ways than one.

By recognising & then extending patterns of behaviour & thinking, we can plan an exciting & challenging learning environment to support our little one’s interests.

“Follow the child, they will show you what they need to do, what they need to develop in themselves and what area they need to be challenged in. The aim of the children who persevere in their work, with an object is certainly not to ‘learn’; they are drawn to it by the needs of their inner life, which must be recognised and developed by its means.” – Dr. Maria Montessori

So how many play schemas are there?

There are nine types of play schema - since babies are undergoing incredibly rapid physical & sensory development, most play schemas typically appear later - most of which start to emerge in early toddlerhood, except for positioning, which typically appears closer to 2 years of age.

To learn more on the details of the nine types of play schema, how play schemas align with Montessori and how to support schema play click here.