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Cosa sono gli Schemi di Azione e perché è importante conoscerli.

What are Action Schemes and why it is important to know them.

What are Action Schemes and why it is important to know them.

I receive requests for advice every day, such as "What's the best game for my two-year-old?" or "He's about to turn three, what can't be missing?". My first response will always be “What does he/she like to do?”. Now I'll tell you why.

Ever wondered why your son or daughter just keeps throwing that glass off the table? Or breaking the construction his brother just created? Or dragging all the games from one part of the house to another to position them? Or still jumping on the couch all the time? These behaviors, in addition to causing great frustration in us, seem to be dysfunctional, sometimes provocative tantrums, and put our patience to the test.

And if instead we stopped to observe our child carefully and without prejudice and these behaviors could we notice one or more patterns in his actions? These repeated actions are in fact not only useful but in fact essential to his cognitive development.


We are talking of the Schemas of Action originally introduced by Piaget and then taken up and studied in depth by various psychologists and educators. These are repeated patterns of behavior that all, or almost all, children go through to explore the surrounding environment. Repeated actions help children learn and fix the concepts necessary for their motor and cognitive development.

Action patterns can occur at any given moment, sometimes at all, other times simultaneously with other patterns.

The main schemes are: wrap, enclose, connect, rotate, observe trajectories, position, transport, orient and transform. We will soon see them in detail.

Why is it important to understand and recognize these patterns in our children?

First of all to eliminate any prejudice.

These patterns are natural, innate, uncontrollable and necessary for the cognitive development of all children. If your little girl throws herself in the puddle it's not to spite you, but because she has a very strong impulse to explore a certain dynamic. A parent's awareness of these behaviors will lead him not to judge the same in a negative way, but to recognize it as a physiological way of being and acting for his child.

Second, to be able to propose activities that satisfy the child's need to implement these schemes.

Often the diagrams are the precursors of acquired skills that are not easily observable to an untrained eye: jumping up and down and sideways in a puddle can refine that motor skill which will be used in the future to mark lines on the sheet, draw and possibly write the letters of the alphabet! Let's trust them and offer suitable proposals!

Lastly, we will not only stimulate learning, but we will avoid buying games with which the child at that particular stage is not interested in interacting.

Here we go back to the initial discussion: we do not buy games based on the gender or age of the child but on the basis of the child's preferences which are always (at least in the first years of life, before the cultural context has a hand in it !) functional to help some competence that he has to develop.

I'll try to give an example of how, by understanding the functioning mechanisms, a problem can be turned into a resource: the child throws the food from the high chair. It is evidently in the experimentation scheme of the trajectories. We have understood that this is not necessarily a behavior to avoid but maybe we can try to stimulate it in ways that are more acceptable to us. What kind of educational material can we offer? Balls and balls of all kinds, slopes and ball runs, decanting, water games, lots of time at the playground. For thrown food I highly recommend a dog, he cleans everything in less than a second!

What are the different schemes and what games and activities can we propose based on their predominance?


Tell me now. did you also use a hair elastic to block the bidet faucet? Then it means that your son or daughter has gone through this pattern!

One of the schemes that appear first, consists in the exploration of the child of the trajectory that a certain object or his own body follows. Thus one learns the way in which this object or itself moves in space. Some examples in life are interacting with running water, making food fly from high chair, watching mud splashing from a puddle or the path of a soap bubble in the air, swinging back and forth on the seesaw. Often the little one will create trajectories to observe them by throwing objects both with his hands and with his feet. This can create considerable apprehension on the part of the caretaker but it is important to know that these are not aggressive behaviors but simple experiments. The child is learning the relationship between cause and effect and developing hand-eye coordination among many things. We can offer the child these educational materials:

Waytoplay track with Candylab toy cars. What's better than rolling a toy car on a track to observe the trajectory?

The Ball Ribbons are a joyous way to explore this pattern!

The Connetix Marble Run, requires a high level of planning and anticipation and is perfect for older children!


The child in this diagram connects and disconnects objects, ties them together, opens and closes things. Examples in everyday life are tying door handles with string, opening and closing doors, playing with stickers, applying plasters, playing with legos, doing puzzles.

If you've been the victim of a seizure and had to have hundreds of stickers applied all over your body, now you know why!

Stuka Puka puzzles can offer many educational opportunities.

Magnetic tiles are an immense resource for stimulating this scheme.

Remember that as well as connecting, the child also needs to "disconnect", so there is nothing wrong with allowing him to destroy the construction he has just created!


Some children love enclosing themselves or other objects within predefined spaces. Filling cups with water, placing yourself inside cabinets or boxes, placing toys in closed spaces (like playing the "zoo"), playing hide and seek, are some of the activities involved in this scheme. We can offer children the following materials:

The Bowls and the Ball are fantastic right from the first months to put and enclose.

The Moulds for modeling clay allow the child to create shapes with clear boundaries.


You are happily doing a painting activity with your daughter. The paper is there but suddenly your daughter seems more interested in painting her whole hand. Before you ask yourself what sin from your past life you are atoning for, ask yourself if the little one is dealing with this pattern instead!

Disguises, hiding places, tucking up the doll. This scheme is very similar to that of enclosing with the difference that in this scheme the object is totally wrapped and not just covered until it is no longer visible.

The Play towels are excellent for allowing the child to wrap himself or her toys.

Hiding animal figurines in ice or in a sensory tray is a great way to explore this pattern.

Dressing the dolls stimulates schematic and fine motor skills at the same time.


Experiencing different orientations is essential to develop gross motor skills, proprioception and stimulate the vestibular system. You'll find a child exploring this pattern hanging upside down from some tree branch!

A Magnifying Glass or a 4-Angle Mirror can provide excellent stimulation to go through this phase. In fact, they allow you to look at things from different points of view! Obviously free games in the open air are optimal!


Have you ever seen your little girl or boy create very long rows of toy cars or other objects in the same category?

The scheme of Positioning consists in arranging objects or oneself with criterion.  The child tends to align objects in a particular way, with criteria, usually creating categories divided by size, color, etc.

The Mandalas by Grapat are fantastic for creating patterns!

For younger children you can opt for something "easier" like the Stackable Forms by Wooden Story.


Children struggling with this pattern love everything that rotates or has two wheels! During this phase there will be an intense interest in things that go round, going round and round, drawing circles, etc.

What's better than Candylab toy cars? 


Does your child love carrying things from one place to another? Then he's going through this pattern! Let's see if it sounds familiar: go into the woods, mum you'll find your pockets full of leaves, twigs and stones (those weighing half a kilo!). That's right, I won't comment further because I know exactly what you feel!

The small and very sweet Little Things by Grapat are perfect for storing and transporting all the treasures found!


Combine different elements to observe the result, this is what children do when grappling with this pattern! Mixing food with water is a classic. I remember a time when my son soaked every single bite of food in water before ingesting it under our horrified gazes!

Much better to mix paint colors or Modelling clays, I say!

And what pattern have you noticed in your children?

In your opinion, what pattern of action are they going through right now?

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