Teachers Blog Series 1

Week 3 - Purposeful Play

My son is 6.5 years old (I have to add the .5 as it's very important in a child's world to add months and days lol) and in the earlier years we experienced a variety of baby & toddlers groups like Baby and Toddler Sensory, Bounce and Rhyme, Hartbeeps, Tumble Tots, Lottie Little Movers etc. and I also provided a mix of activities at home for him like painting, water play, lots of tuff tray sensory play with pasta, rice, homemade slime and play dough etc. Whilst building memories with my son and watching him grow and develop through play and exploring, by being hands on and "rolling with it", I was also hugely intrigued with my friends children and others attending the groups.


I consciously watched and observed the children play, they were engrossed, concentrating, mesmerized, fixated, repeating actions, laughing (& sometimes crying through frustration), enjoying themselves - they were HAPPY! The sounds of children being joyous and the sight of them being busy was truly beautiful to wtiness.


These young children were leaning SO much and they were playing. The environments were set up for purposeful play.

Whilst I was gathering ideas for home activities to do with my son, I stumbled across (as you do when you click on the multiple layers of website links) a blog that was going in to detail about how children learn through play and why it's important to understand what's behind your child's play and help them learn by observing their patterns of behaviour - these patterns being labelled as "Schema's". Well I was engrossed and fascinated with what was being described because I had seen all these patterns whilst observing my son and the other children - I had a name for the actions.


These patterns of behaviour were not so obvious looking back before having my own child. My swim school in Florida was play based and I set up the pool with fun toys but it was not quite like I design my lessons today. My activities and props are now purposefully chosen with schematic play at the forefront of my mind.


Carefully organised, purposeful, schematic play equips a child with knowledge and skills that lay the foundation for almost everything we do in later life.


From birth children have particular patterns and behaviour and as they grow these schemas increase in number and complexity. By watching closely and noticing the patterns of the child, other activities can be given to them or they can have access to them, that match that schema. It will hold their interest as well as helping them with the stage of development that they are currently working through.


By matching the learning opportunities during swimming lessons and in a group setting, parents and the teacher have a greater chance of capturing their child's interest and thus further developing their skills, because the activities and props chosen are more likely to appeal to the child's pattern of development.


There are 9 schemas:

  1. Orientation

  2. Transforming

  3. Connecting

  4. Transporting

  5. Enclosing

  6. Rotating

  7. Enveloping

  8. Positioning

  9. Trajectory

In the pool, I have observed these as the main schemas present during lessons (see images for an example and explanation):

  1. Transporting

  2. Rotating

  3. Positioning

  4. Trajectory





Depending on the theme I choose for that lesson, will determine which schemas are easily able to accommodate - which I do try to aim to add activities and equipment/toys to achieve all 9 of the schemas.


As swimming teachers we know the benefits of learning to swim at a young age is just brilliant physically and mentally:

  • building stronger muscles

  • improving heart health and vital organ function

  • promoting other vital skills such as balance, posture and coordination

  • swimming is great for weight management

  • it is a stress buster and

  • promotes intelligence (as a scientific study reports by the Griffith University in 2012).

If teachers can tweak the lesson planning process on schematic and purposeful play, there are more benefits that can be added to the list:

  • Learning to take risks

  • Scientific exploration

  • Constructing their world

  • Attunement to their bodies

  • Artistic expression

  • Emotional health and social processing

Using purposeful, schematic play enables a child to learn their skill sets with joy, wonder, risk, imagination all woven together. The child has the ownership of their learning. They are body mapping, they learn to fully engage with their minds and body on a different level. With adding this way of learning in a child's learn to swim journey, a child will have joy of taking risks or breaking through their own limits or discovering the aquatic world, or truly engaging in a deeper form of learning and understanding of the water.


The teacher is the observer, a discoverer and a understander. They discover the child, understands the child. The teacher truly understands and comprehends how a child learns, what their abilities are, what kind of child they are, what the child's disposition is and their potential. The teacher reflects so that they can better the child's discoveries. They child and the teacher grow together.


After reading this information would you be open to taking a risk yourself and tweak your swimming lessons? Have you heard about schemas before? Do you implement schematic play within your lessons already? Do you find it is beneficial? If you haven't heard of this, what do you think? You may be asking yourself - how can I do this in a 30 min (25 min) lesson with a group of children? How about changing it and having longer lessons?


We will go in to more detail about all of this in the SWIM Zone Fundamentals online course.


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