Winter Wonder

In the woods this morning, the children engaged in the value of child led inquiry and exploring. They always show an incredible amount of different Schemas- or patterns of play. By observing a child's schemas, one can gain an insight into their current fascinations and celebrate and facilitate their development and learning.


"A schema is a pattern of repeated actions. Clusters of schemas develop into later concepts" (Athey, 2007).


It has been found in research that Schemas link to the development and strengthening of cognitive structures (the basic mental processes people use to make sense of information) in the brain. Children are able to act out experiences and take risks, testing out and talking about what they already know and can do. When children are playing with a concept or an idea that they know well, they are also building upon knowledge that they can then apply to a range of new experiences and activities. In this way, Schemas (cognitive structures) are constantly being strengthened through active exploration, engagement, thinking and investigation. It is the opportunities for children go on visits and combine resources and materials, in real and relevant contexts, which makes that crucial difference in the enrichment of a child’s learning.’


Some examples of Schemas are:

  • transporting- moving things, filling wheeled objects, carrying things around in bags or in their hands- learning about how the world works, energy, weight, early maths and physics concepts

  • connecting- lining things up, stacking things, joining things together, taping and gluing, placing and grouping them together- developing early pattern making and maths concepts

  • trajectory- dropping things, rolling them, throwing things, stacking and knocking things down- being interested in how things move

  • Enveloping - covering themselves or objects completely, wrapping items up or placing them in containers, being inside dens or under fabric and blankets

  • Rotating - enjoying spinning items round and round, spinning on swings, running around in circles

  • Enclosing - adding boundaries to play areas e.g. fences around animals, adding borders to pictures- showing their interest in ordering and organising things and spaces.

Whilst creating an 'igloo' out of a wooden den frame with white tarps, the children spent a long while rolling logs for their igloo across the woodland floor. With lumps and bumps to overcome, along with fallen dead wood and branches to negotiate, they showed perseverance, problem solving and gross motor development, using hands and feet to roll and manoeuvre the logs into fantastic seating for their den. The smaller people are developing brilliant coordination and skill development in walking in wellies on a wonky woodland floor, which is no small feat when you've only just nailed walking independently.


With multiple 'loose parts' to explore, the children always choose their own way to go. Whilst the adults set about creating seasonal wreaths with great enthusiasm, the children placed bay branches in the shelter: developing their creative ideas. They used secateurs to cut ivy and holly for their parents wreaths; developing fine motor coordination. They stacked and unstacked the trolly with woods blocks and clay: engrossed in their transporting schemas. It is so brilliant for all to have time and space for their own ideas and interests. Whilst the children busied themselves in their schemas, the adults could also, creating wreaths, drinking hot tea and catching up and sharing conversations.

After school the older children revelled in the time and space to 'just be' and play with others. They played a few games along the way- such as 'how many children can you get on an upturned bath tub?' and 'fox and rabbit'- where they had to use their quick physical skills to stop the fox from getting into the rabbits warren. They spent a silent couple of minutes looking out for the squirrels and enjoyed watching the sheep grazing under the giant oaks in the rising mist on the water meadows.


They ended their day in the dark, by making a wish by placing a sprig of bay leaves on the fire. The leaves crackle and flame brilliantly as the wishes burned away in the fire. Their scent and smoke drifted up into the winter night to hopefully come true. A day of winter wonder was had by all.