Why are they Throwing EVERYTHING?!
(aka Play Schemas)
"These are “learning modes” that the twins feel an urge to go into from time to time where they want to explore a particular way of doing something, and crucially, use these experiences to learn."
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1. Play Schemas are "learning modes" that the twins go int form time to time.
2.They will repeat, almost obsessively, the same task, or type of task, so they can learn and master that type of activity.
3. If we interrupted them, we not only interrupted their learning, but were likely to cause a tantrum!
4. We tried to accommodate schema driven behaviour, or if it was dangerous or undesirable, find an alternative that let them stay in that a schema e.g. if a heavy wooden toy was being thrown about, asking to swap it for a safe beanbag, which would usually work.
5. Here is a list of the common schemas, although I never memorised them as they were easy enough to notice and look up.
(TG = Twin Girl, TB = Twin Boy)
We noticed early on that the twins would go through phases doing the same thing, over and over. As babies, they would endlessly turn a ball over in their hands, as they got bigger they would spend ages trying to fit a piece into a shape sorter or puzzle, or would find everything they could and stuff it all into a container. Once they were weaned we would see them doing similar things with their food, a favourite being putting their food into the glass we give them for water, or moving the food on and off their plates.
These kind of repeated, almost obsessive behaviours are called Play Schemas. These are “learning modes” that the twins feel an urge to go into from time to time where they want to explore a particular way of doing something, and crucially, use these experiences to learn until they get good at it.
It was important that we learned to recognise them so we avoided interrupting the twins as they were learning and experimenting, which would also 9 times out of 10 result in a bit of a meltdown. This wasn’t always easy, both twins spent a lot of time in trajectory schema, which, you guessed it, is the one where they want to throw EVERYTHING. This made mealtimes hazardous as food, plates, cutlery and even bibs went flying.
Where a schema was driving behaviour we were not keen on, we would do our best to find something that would provide the same outlet, but in an acceptable way, avoiding a missed learning opportunity and meltdown. So for example, when TB would start throwing heavy wooden toys broadly in the direction of TG, we would remind him that we had lots of mini bean bags that were perfect for throwing safely, and most of the time he would happily switch up.
I also had to remember the mantra “what is the negative consequence of them doing this?”, often other than being a bit messy or odd, there wasn’t one, so why not let them do their thing to learn? Putting food into and then out of their glass was a great example of this - if the behaviour had that obsessive OCD schema driven quality, then I figured it was worth a little bit of mess to accommodate their learning and was less stressful for everyone than trying to intervene. Once we spotted a schema, we could also do our best to match activities and toys to that schema to help them do their thing, for example providing containers if they were in a enclosure or transportation schema to put things in and move them about.
I always wanted to memorise the common Play Schemas, but never got around to it - as the twins seemed to spend at least a few days in one or two, and with a bit of observation they weren't hard to spot and google (e.g. something repeatedly being thrown at your head!).
Here is a list of all the common ones - if behaviour is schema driven, we try to go with it and find a way to let them follow their instincts to learn and explore.
Credit for below to reach for Montessori, who have a great article with a bit more background on the psychology of schemas and some great ideas on activities for each.