Ingenious ideas for schemas

Kathy Brodie suggests a range of bought and made ideas for resourcing your children's schematic play. Interlocking train tracks are great for exploring connection schema, while trains can be used for rotation and positioning.

Ingenious ideas for schemas
Ingenious ideas for schemas


Children who follow a transporting schema are quickly spotted. These are the children who carry toys and equipment from one space to another, and usually have a bag slung over their arm. Resources should include any sort of handbag or bag that children can fill easily. These can be cheaply sourced from charity shops or donated items. Larger items, such as buggies or prams that children can use to ‘transport’ each other can be sourced through equipment companies such as TTS ( For the ultimate transporting experience, try the easy ride jumbo wagon from Fine Solutions, where up to four children can be transported at once. To extend this type of play, you could provide objects that need some problem-solving to transport, such as very large, but light, boxes that need two children to carry them.


Children who enjoy wrapping things and themselves up are likely to be exploring an enveloping schema. Enveloping also includes wrapping toys in sticking tape. If you provide masking tape (available from DIY stores) this is easier to remove afterwards and can also be drawn on or coloured in. Providing sheets of fabric, from a scraps store or charity shop, can provide children with plenty of enveloping fun. Similarly, making ‘pass the parcels’ with paper or newspaper will fascinate children with enveloping schema. For special occasions you could provide a range of dressing up clothes from stores such as Asda direct (search for ‘kids dress up’ on their website). Wrapping up toys and then connecting them using the sticky tape could extend this schema.


Schematic enclosure play is characterised by children putting things into boxes, surrounding their pictures with frames and enclosing toys within fences. To support children with enclosure schemas, you will need boxes of all varieties. Chocolate boxes, which have a little individual compartment for each chocolate, are perfect for children with enclosure schema, as they fill each little section with beads, cotton reels or toys. With big wooden blocks, available from Community Playthings ( children can make giant enclosures for their friends or small enclosures to play within themselves. Similarly, fencing to make zoos and farms would really appeal to these children. You can make these fairly simply from craft lolly sticks, or buy them ready made from toy shops such as Argos. To extend this into outdoors play, Fine Solutions has some ingenious soft-sided den making panels that can be easily dismantled for flat storage.

There are some resources that meet the needs of several different schematic play types. For example, interlocking wooden train tracks are great for children who are exploring connection schema; the trains are good for children with rotation schema and positioning schema (lining things in rows). Balls are good for trajectory schema, as well as rotational schema, when rolled. Baking pastry is excellent for transforming schema (mixing things together to see what happens), enveloping fruit or pies with the pastry or enclosing tarts in baking trays.

‘There is a critical window to encourage healthy eating habits’

Statistics from the Health and Social Care Information Centre in 20141, show that 22 per cent of three-year-olds in the UK are either overweight or obese. What families of young children need is consistent, practical advice to get back on the right track if we are going to halt the obesity epidemic. Young children need a good balance of food and exercise for their rapid growth and development and parents are their strongest role models.

The Infant & Toddler Forum (ITF) has developed practical tools and advice for parents to help them feed their toddlers in line with their nutritional needs at this important stage in their development. We believe that in young families there is a critical window of opportunity to encourage healthy habits. We know that the foods children learn to like in their early years can help shape eating habits that influence their health in later life.

Early years practitioners can encourage good eating habits through their work with both children and their families, by adopting the ITF's Ten Steps for Healthy Toddlers. The Ten Steps is an easy-to-use guide on what food to offer toddlers, what behaviours to encourage and how best to manage mealtimes, supporting all families to take small steps towards a healthier lifestyle. Parents can be reassured that by keeping to the ITF's Portion Sizes for Children Aged 1-4, toddlers will still grow and develop without gaining too much weight.

The ‘Ten Steps’ can be adopted as best practice in nursery settings, and it's an excellent resource to help facilitate the dialogue between childcare professionals and parents around balanced diet, eating habits and lifestyle habits.

Getting involved is easy! To download the Ten Steps, and the Portion Sizes for Children 1-4 years, and to find out about how to get your setting involved in the initiative, visit:

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