Schemas of Play

How’s it Hangin’? – Understanding the Orientation Schema

As a child I was drawn to seeing the world from different point of view. I would clutch the branches of my grandparents’ wattle tree and lazily explore my surroundings. I’d hang from the old steel monkey bars at the local park and pretend the white fluffy clouds were at my feet and the gum trees were nature’s chandeliers hanging from a leafy sky. I felt happy in those moments and enjoyed that rush of blood to the head feeling, painting my cheeks a deep shade of red and making me feel ever so dizzy!

Do I still hang upside down? Well, sadly no… but that satisfying feeling is something I understand as an adult because I was given the opportunity as a child to find out. These childhood memories of mine are all part of the ‘Orientation Schema’ and often involve children putting themselves (or objects!) in different places and positions to gain a different view point. They also include behaviours such as peeping through holes, climbing upon or swinging from structures, as well as crawling, rolling, spinning and lying flat to look up, down or sideways.

So how can we support children safely!?!

Instead of freaking out and trying to stop my cheeky little monkeys from climbing, swinging and peeping because I’m worried they’ll hurt themselves I make sure to support them in a safe environment and provide opportunities that enable my climbers to explore this urge in enjoyable ways. This week I have planned some activities that encourage the orientation schema….


Our treasure basket is full of objects that allow children to see things from a different point of view. It includes, binoculars, magnifying glasses, mirrors and cardboard peep holes, transparent materials, cardboard tubes, posting boxes and coloured magnetic tiles. I’d also suggest adding a kaleidoscope if you have one!


Messy but fun! Inviting children to explore what happens when a cup with a hole full of paint is swung around is an exciting and satisfying way of exploring the forces of motion and gravity. I suggest making this an outdoor experience to ensure children have the freedom to swing away as well as letting those creative juices flow… or is that swing!? A how to guide can be found here!


I have a range of large loose parts for the children to climb on, under and through in our backyard. Climbing frames and playgrounds are an obvious choice when encouraging the orientation schema but with open ended materials such as these we begin to provide endless opportunities for children to manipulate and explore each part, how they move and how they themselves can move around them.

So if you have a climber consider thinking about the ‘Orientation Schema’ and find safe and engaging ways that work for your child and give them the freedom to satisfy that urge. Stopping them or being afraid on their behalf will only harbour frustration and unnecessary fear within them… or they might be so determined that they just try to do it when you’re not looking!

How do you support and promote the orientation schema with your child/ren?

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