This is something I have become particularly interested in since I began noticing 'patterns' of behaviour in Boy when he was around 18 months old. I began reading and researching about how children learn and found I could explain some of Boy's behaviour in his play through schemas.
The term schema is used in psychology to describe organised patterns in thought and behaviour. It's a very complex theory and I am by no means knowledgeable enough in this particular field to go into further detail on schemas in general. However, many parents and people who work with young children notice that they can have patterns of unusual or repetitive even compulsive behaviour which can be seen in their play.
Transporting - a child likes to move things from one place to another, eg carrying toys from one place to another in a bag or other container, pushing objects/toys in a pram, move soil or sand in a bucket.
Enveloping - a child likes covering things up, eg wrapping a doll in a blanket, wrapping objects in paper/cloth, covering themselves in the sand, covering over a painting in one colour.
Enclosing - a child likes to contain things, eg putting objects in and out of a cupboard or drawer, climbing into a box or making a den, posting things into small spaces
Trajectory - a child is interested in lines (horizontal, vertical, diagonal, curved), eg dropping toys onto the floor, throwing balls and other objects, bouncing, climbing onto furniture, lining up objects, fascinated by running water.
Rotation - a child likes things which spin eg, gazing at the washing machine, rolling on the floor, spinning around, playing with toys which have wheels (toy vehicles, scooters and bikes).
Connection - a child wants to join things together, eg joining train tracks, using tape to join furniture together, interested in bridges.
Boy displayed signs of a trajectory schema for quite some time. He used to line all his teddies up obsessively! Now, he has a very definite enveloping schema. He very often wraps toys up in fabric, enjoys covering himself in cushions, and only ever does a painting where the whole page is covered in a sludgy brown colour (he usually says it's a cave!). Girl seems to have a trajectory schema, she is often to be found throwing things. She also shows signs of a rotation schema, always interested in the washing machine, likes spinning around, enjoys playing with a particular toy with cogs and wheels.
Transporting - pushchairs, wheelbarrows, shopping games, carrying sand/soil in buckets, toy vehicles, bikes, picnics, sending and receiving letters, whisper games, games with clues, bags, suitcases, going on journeys/walks.
Enveloping - making sandwiches and pies, dens, dressing and putting dolls to bed, treasure hunts, hide and seek, washing things in water, burying in the sand/soil, planting seeds, dressing up, books with flaps, parachutes, cake decorating, papier mache, wrapping things in paper.
Enclosing - shape sorter toys, playing in boxes, dolls houses, small world buildings, tidying away, letterboxes, making borders for pictures, putting photos in a book.
Trajectory - throwing games, races, stacking and rolling, making marks on paper/in sand or soil, hammering and sawing, using sticks to beat a drum, water play, funnels, pouring, sewing, water guns, climbing, jumping, slides.
Rotation - baking and stirring, rolling out dough, corkscrews, waterwheels, windmills, making pom poms, mixing paint, paint rollers, spinning tops, wheels, toy vehicles, bikes, spirograph, cogs and gears, clocks and clockwork objects, skipping, hula hoops, rounds, chants, ring games, drilling, kaleidoscopes, roundabouts.
Connection - sequences in stories and recipes, pipes and tunnels, making towers, lego, building blocks, dominoes, jigsaws, matching games, sellotape, glue, string, kites, obstacle courses, marble run, pendulums and swings.