When I worked as an early-years teachers in London, England, there was a 3 year old boy that started in my class one September, who had a constant urge to throw things during any type of play. His hat would end up on the shed roof and his toys (and body) would frequently fly through the air. Often, his behaviour would perplex his parents and other staff.
After calling for a caretaker with ladder in hand or using a broom to fetch his hat down from the roof, he would be told repeatedly not to throw. But, inevitably, he would still do it, and was then labelled ‘naughty’. In actuality, what we all came to see was that his throwing was deep, important learning.
Children have an innate urge to learn and grow. Often times these urges appear as repetitive behaviours – there is a desire to master the skill set being practiced. Children become entranced by their learning, compulsive even, and often enter a state of “flow”. In early years literature and settings, these repetitive actions are often referred to as schemas.
There are six primary groups of schematic behaviours that children will explore during their early years. They very likely will display a preference for 1-2 schemas at a time. Understanding our children’s schematic patterns can help us encourage their learning in a deep way. It can also help deflect the “naughty” behaviour into perceived positive actions, for both ourselves and our children.