Play schemas: Is my child an enveloper?


Here's another schema for you to consider. 

Even the name makes you warm to them. Children with an enveloping schema love to wrap, cover, layer and bandage. They have an urge to envelop and be enveloped. They'd empty out a basket of clean ironing and make a den. You'll find them setting up home under the table with jigsaws, books etc. They'll wrap up anything from parcels to the cat. 

In the nursery I observed several patterns of behaviour that suggested an enveloping schema: 

  • Finding peekaboo hilarious long after others have moved on
  • Reluctance to come out from under the parachute 
  • Blocking the play tunnel 
  • Making dens with sheets/coats etc and staying in them all morning 
  • Dressing up in layer after layer of dressing up clothes with less interest in exploring the personas and more in the process of layering
  • Wearing all the necklaces and bracelets at once with multiple shoulder bags (if they can get them away from the transporters!) 
  • Bandaging every toy in sight 
  • In art activities, layering pictures by drawing or colouring over, painting a complete layer of paint over an original image, obliterating it and sticking sticker over sticker. It took me a while to realise that these children are not "ruining" their pictures , frustrating as it may be for the parent to watch a wonderful image disappear. 

Play ideas: 

Even children with a pronounced schema don't usually play in that fashion exclusively. They may have their own agenda but a shared agenda with their peers will often entice them away, and schema overlap/dovetail together in collaborative play with other children. A transporter might fill a medicine bag at a toy hospital while an enveloper bandages patients and covers them with blankets. 

  • Provide sheets, blankets and fabrics in different textures and weights with clothes pegs for fixing.
  • Small piles of fabric can be used in small world play (like playmobil) or even single sheets of toilet roll.
  • "Hospitals" often goes down well - provide bandages, blankets and sticky plasters.
  • Collage activities including stickers, fabrics, paper, and glue. 
  • A roll of masking tape and some greaseproof paper will provide hours of fun. 
  • Play shops with a pile of paper bags to wrap goods in. 
  • Wrap parcels and gifts together. 
  • Help your child to set up tents, wigwams and dens, both inside and out, and eat lunch there. Torches and battery lights will add to the fun. 
  • Envelopers often enjoy looking through coloured glasses which gives them a feeling of being hidden - make some using coloured cellophane. 
  • Have lots of necklaces and bracelets but do supervise their use carefully.  
  • Put small items in feely bags and let them guess what they are just by touch. 
  • Some children enjoy games involving a very lose blindfold where they listen to and follow instructions. 

In a nursery setting with a play-based curriculum I like the schemas to be the child-centred starting point with the learning embedded in the play interest and this is equally possible a home. 

Your child can learn about shapes with fabric, paper, folding cutting and sticking. Letters or numbers in different textures, including fabric, sandpaper, felt etc, will be tactile and memorable. And what better way to learn about winter than to go outside in multiple layers of your choice and see if you stay warm (we once did it with newspapers), or the ultimate - make a den and hibernate. 

Story book idea - Bear Snores on by Karma Wilson. A little bear asleep in a den is visited by several animals. Eventually he wakes up and they make popcorn and have a party. Your enveloper will love making the den with you, listening to the stormy assembling you animals and of course eating popcorn. You may never get them out! 

Jane Reay


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