By Spring Nurseries · 15 Aug 2021

Schemas: The Reasons Behind Your Child’s Behaviour

Throwing toys, pouring their drink into their dinner, knocking things over, being destructive and hiding your possessions are all examples of behaviour your child might display that you may find challenging as a parent/carer. Often, it is behaviour that is mistaken for seeking attention or purposely being badly behaved, but this isn’t the case. Surprisingly, they are all normal behaviours that have a reason and process behind them. Understanding your child’s behaviour and the ‘why’ is key to diverting and transforming the behaviours and actions into safer, calmer and more constructive play and exploration which both child and parent can enjoy.

Children’s behavioural processes are called schemas and there are so many different types of schema that their actions, urges and behaviours fit into. They are repeated patterns of linked behaviours that may be demonstrated through actions, language and play. A child can use these in a variety of different situations. Schemas are formed during childhood as a way to make sense of our world.

Below you can read about the common schemas and some examples of them that you might have noticed in your child, along with some ways to ensure the schema is being actioned in a positive way.

Trajectory: Movement and Forces
The trajectory schema behaviour challenges that you may face could include kicking, jumping and throwing which your child may demonstrate through kicking off their shoes, throwing food and toys and jumping on furniture. You can help your child pursue their trajectory schema through ball games such as throwing and catching, throwing beanbags into buckets, playing with bubbles and balloons, trips to the park and dance movements. The trajectory schema can be quite challenging for parents as it can be the most unsafe and destructive. When your child is acting out this schema, instead of using language such as ‘stop throwing!’ you could instead say ‘we only throw outside, shall we play catch?’ and this can help to divert the child’s behaviour without the child being told it is negative, as this can cause frustration for them. You can also think of safer ways for your child to play. If they are jumping across furniture, you could instead put some cushions on the floor or outside and allow them to practise jumping onto these.


Transporting: Moving Things From Place to Place
If you have a child with the transporting schema, you may find things go missing or they may like to collect things. Examples of this might be hiding the TV remote in their bag or enjoying helping with supermarket shopping. Children with this schema may like treasure hunts, sand play and toy vehicles. You can accommodate this schema by asking your child to help load things into the trolley when shopping and then putting them onto the conveyer belt, they may also enjoy packing bags. You could encourage your child to help pack their nursery bag whilst providing toys such as trains and cars. Children with the transporting schema will also be interested in putting coins into a money box.


Transforming: Changing The State of Things
Some children have a fascination with having the ability to change the state of something. Some things you may struggle with due to this schema is when your child pours their drink into their dinner or mushes and plays with the food on their plate. This can be frustrating for parents/carers when you have spent time cooking your child a nice meal. To support the schema, you can encourage your child to make mudpies out in the garden and encourage lots of other messy play activities such as shaving foam, making slime and playing in water and sand.


Positioning: Sorting Things In a Particular Way
Children with a positioning schema may be particular about how things are and can often become frustrated if thing’s aren’t how they would like. Some key examples that parents/carers might find challenging with this schema are not sharing with other children, being fussy about what they eat or how food is set out on their plate or being particular about what they wear and what order they get dressed in. Children with this schema like order and neatness. Activity ideas to support this can include any lose parts play including threading beads onto string, shape sorters, puzzles, sorting activities and collecting items such as sticks or shells from the beach.


These are some of the schemas where a child’s behaviour might become concerning or difficult for the parents/carers but rest assured it is normal development and each child has different schemas and is fascinated by different methods of play. We should allow children to action their schemas even when they may seem destructive, as they can be a strong urge or fascination, but we can help the child to do this in a safe and positive way by offering alternative activities and ideas that still support that particular schema but are safer and demonstrate good behaviour. It is important to be positive around the schemas so eliminate the use of negative words such as ‘no’ or ‘stop’ and instead try using more positive ways to encourage positive use of schemas by using language such as ‘Why don’t we try…’ and ‘We do throwing outside so would you like to go outside and play catch?’

There are lots of other schemas out there and as part of a child’s learning journey at Spring, we do child-led play. This means understand each child’s schema and needs and incorporating those fascinations and interests into our activities at nursery. We also work closely with parents to identify any schemas and support parents with accommodating for these in nurseries and providing ideas of how to accommodate these at home too.


All of our Operations Managers have completed Schema Play training provided by Lynnette Brock and John Siraj-Blatchford (renowned in the childcare sector). This means they are now licensed trainers and can provide training to our Spring Nursery teams.