"Parents and educators can support children with their learning and development by ensuring that children have access to open-ended materials that can be used and explored in a variety of ways."
At All Circles, we're always researching, thinking and asking questions and we look for professionals and researchers for direction. He had the pleasure of interviewing Kimberly Squires, Pedagogical Leader at the University of Guelph Child Care and Learning Center.
All Circles: Can you tell us a bit about Play Schemas?
Kim: Parents may notice their child engaging in some repetitive play behaviours, which may even seem like negative behaviours, such as a child repeatedly dropping their utensil from a highchair. These actions are called play schemas and are a way for children to learn about how the world works. Through engaging in these repetitive behaviours, children learn fundamental base concepts so that they can understand related more abstract concepts later in their development. The most commonly identified play schemas are connection, trajectory, rotation, enclosing, enveloping, positioning, transporting, transforming, and orientation (England, 2018). For example, the child repeatedly dropping their food or utensil from their highchair could be exploring the trajectory play schema which is related to the movement of objects, often in horizontal or vertical lines. Recognizing these play schemas can help parents and educators redirect children’s exploration of these schemas in more appropriate ways. For example, if a child seems to have a strong interest in exploring trajectory, then a parent or educator could intentionally provide experiences related to the movement of objects, such as providing objects that can be safely thrown or spaces where children can run and explore the movement of their own bodies.
"Loose parts are often everyday objects that do not always look like something a child might typically play with, such as wooden tree cookies, buttons, wooden rings, corks, etc. The openness of these materials encourages children to learn and explore in a greater variety of ways which can have significant benefits for their holistic development."
AC: How can parents help facilitate learning with loose parts?
K: In the field of early learning, we focus on providing experiences with many possibilities for learning and development. Rather than providing toys that are only intended to be used in a specific way, we tend to focus more on providing open-ended materials that can be used in a variety of ways, sometimes called loose parts. Loose parts are materials that can be moved, redesigned, put together, and taken apart in a variety of ways (Nicholson, 1971). Loose parts are often everyday objects that do not always look like something a child might typically play with, such as wooden tree cookies, buttons, wooden rings, corks, glass gems, plastic beads, sticks, stones, pinecones, scarves, boxes, caps, rollers, etc. The openness of these materials encourages children to learn and explore in a greater variety of ways which can have significant benefits for their holistic development. These materials are also often less expensive than more typical toys (sometimes even free!) so they can be more sustainable and economically feasible. Parents and educators can support children with their learning and development by ensuring that children have access to open-ended materials that can be used and explored in a variety of ways.
AC: How do different materials and sensory experiences translate to learning?
K: Providing experiences with a variety of materials (e.g. wood, fabric, metal, plastic, etc.) can be beneficial for children’s development in a variety of ways. Through these explorations, children can learn how different materials feel and act and how they can be used for different purposes. Research has also shown that a variety of sensory experiences can be beneficial for children’s brain development.
AC: How is risky play important to development during early years.
K: Risky play is play where there is a real or perceived risk of injury. This may include a variety of types of risks, including heights, speed, tools, rough and tumble play, or the ability to disappear or get lost (Brussoni et al., 2015). For example, we might see children climbing up a tree or log as an example of risky play because of the height risk. Though we may be hesitant to provide these sorts of opportunities for children, research has shown that outdoor risky play opportunities can be beneficial for children’s physical and social health (Brussoni et al., 2015). It is important for parents and educators to make an intentional effort to give children some opportunities with risk so that they can benefit from this learning.
Brussoni, M., Gibbons, R., Gray, C., Ishikawa, T., Beate Hansen Sandseter, E., Bienenstock, A., Chabot, G., Fuselli, P., Herrington, S., Janssen, I., Pickett, W., Power, M., Stanger, N., Sampson, M., & Tremblay, M. S. (2015). What is the relationship between risky outdoor play and health in children? A systematic review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12, 6423-6454.
England, L. (2018). Schemas: A practical handbook. Bloomsbury Publishing.
Nicholson, S. (1971). How not to cheat children: The theory of loose parts. Landscape Architecture, 62, 30-34.
Follow Kimberly on Twitter