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Play schemas: does my child have a trajectory schema?

Children with a trajectory schema enjoy movement. They like to move themselves and to be moved. They're drawn to watching movement and making movement happen. 

I recently watched my two grandsons at play. Hamish, 2 years 4 month, was pushing a train around a track. Vincent, 6 months younger, was immediately attracted but appeared to disrupt the activity, repeatedly throwing the trains and pushing them away in random directions out of Hamish's reach, and laughing. Vincent has a trajectory schema. Hamish, who likes an enclosed track made an attempt to join Vincent's play. Throwing a train across the room, at which Vincent laughed his approval, but Hamish then returned to his play - throwing doesn't particularly interest him. 

This illustrates that young children, being sociable, will dip into other children's play patterns in an attempt to find a shared agenda. It also shows that a child with a strong play urge explore the world in a particular way can be misunderstood. 

A child with a trajectory schema will throw things, and until they have some understanding of the world, some of these things will break. Its not the breaking that interest them but the movement. Adults rushing about to clear up the mess add to the movement and excitement. These children may seem fixated by the taps in the sink, becoming drenched along with the floor. It's the movement of the water that fascinates them. Some parents feel that their child with a trajectory schema doesn't play with toys, but they may just be accessing them in a less conventional way e.g. repeatedly pushing a buggy away from them so it speeds across the room. 

I remember carefully choosing toys for my own children and imagined how they'd happily engage with them while I watched fondly on. The hours of them contentedly playing rarely materialised. If I'd known about schemas, I would have had fewer toys and children who were better engaged with what they did have.


Play ideas:

1) Art activities - making tracks with car wheels that have driven through paint puddles

- Making paint footprints outdoors by running along a length of paper with a paint tray at one end

- Blowing paint using a straw to make patterns on paper 

- Children will often draw movement so a line going back or forth which they insist is a swing, is actually accurate. Ask them about their pictures. 

- Squirting paint from a distance onto paper.

2) General resources: Wind up toys, pull back vehicles, battery operated vehicles, trains and train tracks, balls (each, sponge, football etc), frisbees, paper aeroplanes, chiffon scarves, ribbons, slinkies, windmills, flags, kites, bubbles, slides, swings, hosepipe, sprinklers, bikes, wheelbarrows, toy buggies. 

3) A few things to try: 

- Drain pipes or a piece of plastic guttering can be fun for use with water and vehicles. Poster tubes offer cleaner indoor play potential. 

- Balloons filled with water for throwing

- Mazes with magnets

- Marble runs

- Dominoes to stand up in rows and then knock down 

- Musical instruments - rainmakers, drums, bells etc

- Books with tabs to operate moving parts 

- Jack in a box

- Making paper planes 

- Making parachutes for toys and then launching them 

- Make your own kite from a paper bag and run around to get it to fly

Role play 

We're going on a bear hunt - lots of different ways of moving to explore. 

- Doing the Animal Bop - Lyndsey Gardiner. Try to get the version that comes with a CD. A variety of animals invite you to have a noisy, action packed romp. 

In a nursery setting I found the children with trajectory schemas benefitted from frequent trips outdoors. At home visits to the park, soft play, railway station, airport or just a walk or run around the garden, will go down well. Some children will enjoy being pushed in a buggy because there's so much movement to see around them. 

Good luck and let us know of any activities you've tried that worked well. 




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