Different Things to Different Children

I wanted to give an example of how the same activity/craft/invitation to play can mean different things to different children (who are at different stages of development and therefore are exploring different things through their play!)

I set out foam stickers, markers, and construction paper with my children, who were at the time ages 3.5 and 2. Both of them were engrossed in different “schemas” of play at that developmental point in time. (If you don’t know what schemas are, the general gist is that they’re different patterns that emerge in children’s play. Here’s a crash course link that lists some of them.)

My daughter was hardcore into making lines out of toys right then. She would take cans off the pantry shelf and line them up on the floor, walk by her brother’s toy cars in a pile and stop to line them up…this was no different. She peeled the stickers and carefully placed them in a line on the construction paper.

An image with two smaller pictures on it of two pieces of construction paper, each with a line of sparkly foam butterfly stickers across the page. There are also some scribbles and markings made by a toddler with a purple marker. It has text on it that reads, “Positioning schema (lining things up)!”

My son was really into enveloping/enclosing things right now. He would frequently sit underneath the toddler-sized table and chairs to watch a movie. He would cocoon himself in his blanket even when it’s 85 degrees outside. If he found a plastic bag, he rushed to put as many of his toys as will fit inside of it. And, when given stickers, he used them to completely envelop one of his toy cars.

An image with two smaller pictures on it. One is of five toy cars, each with a sticker placed on it. The other is of one toy car which is completely enveloped in the stickers. It has text on it that reads, “Enveloping schema (surrounding/covering things)!”

Both of them were working on some of the same skills: fine motor control over their fingertips to peel off the paper backing of the stickers; motor planning to place the stickers where they wanted them.

And both of them were working on different skills: different schemas of play that are teaching important developmental things to their brains.