Schematic Play and Music

Schematic Play and Music

Schematic Play and Music

Boogie Mites is on a mission to offer all early years families and practitioners the knowledge, resources and confidence to harness the brain-boosting fun of active music-making each and every day.

In this guest blog, they explore how music can be used to support and enhance schematic play both at home and in early years settings.

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Schemas are repeated actions or behaviours that children demonstrate through play in order to learn, develop and explore the world around them. They are frameworks or patterns, which allow children to work things out and understand or learn how things work or how to undertake tasks, and are an enormously important part of early brain development.

There's no blue-print for schematic play; some children may engage in one particular schema at a time, whilst others may be working within a number of schemas all at once. There's no set time frame in which children tend to work within these, and they may revisit them at a later time.

When we undertake any task or action, we are stimulating our senses, but did you know there are more than five senses? They're a sense called “proprioception”. This is our Body Sense – self-awareness in body form. For example, in order to draw a self-portrait, you have to know where those body parts are in relation to each other.

Music is a fabulous way of helping children to develop their proprioception, as they take part in action songs, sing about and point to parts of the body, and become aware of their own body.

Repetition, repetition, repetition is key, as this is when knowledge is embedded in the brain.

The 9 most common behavioural or play schemas are:

  • Connection - joining, connecting, opening & closing.
  • Enclosure - containing objects or themselves, or creating borders.
  • Enveloping - covering and hiding.
  • Orientation - experimenting with different viewpoints (e.g. hanging upside down) It is also worth noting that hanging upside down and viewing the world from this new perspective requires the eyes to focus in a particular way, and this just so happens to be the same type of focus that's required for reading.
  • Positioning - arranging, ordering or lining things up (even themselves!)
  • Rotation - showing an interest in spinning or turning (objects or themselves), drawing circles.
  • Trajectory - throwing, dropping, rolling, and even exploring the trajectory of their own body.
  • Transforming - mixing, combining or changing materials.
  • Transporting - transporting people, and carrying objects in hands, pockets or bags.

How do musical actions support schemas?

Repetition is key to keeping and strengthening connections in the brain, and repetitive schematic play reinforces these connections. The brain is a multisensory organ, and music is a multisensory activity, so it's the perfect activity for brain development. With repetitive melodies and refrains, strong steady beats, harmonies and melodic sequences, musical activity is the perfect way to complement schematic exploration, through:

  • Drumming and tapping rhythm sticks, which supports connection.
  • Exploring shakers, which supports enclosure and trajectory.
  • Moving to music, which supports positioning, rotation and orientation.
  • Using scarves to hide and reveal (as in singing a Peekaboo song), which supports enveloping.
  • Exploring how different instruments make different sounds, which supports transforming.
  • Handling and sharing instruments, which supports transporting.

Allowing time for children to explore musical props and instruments before they play with them can provide some interesting insights into the schemas they are exploring and working within at the time.

E.g. when using home-made drums and rhythm sticks, children will often explore rolling them on the floor and watch how they move, engaging the rotation and trajectory schemas.

Dancing around and using a wide range of actions to music allows children to explore how they can move their bodies through orientation, position, rotation and even the trajectory of their own bodies. In order to support and encourage this, songs can be adapted so that the actions support children's exploration of different schemas.

Some well-known songs lend themselves to this really well, such as "Here we go round the Mulberry Bush" where you could include a new action each time you sing "This is the way we...."

...Jump up and down. Trajectory

...Turn around (turn on the spot). Rotation

...Curl into a ball. Enveloping

...All hold hands. Connecting

...Strike a pose (hold different poses with hands or whole body). Positioning

...Touch your toes (so that children are looking upside down). Orientation

How do nursery rhymes support schemas?

Nursery rhymes are a fantastic way to encourage actions which support schematic behaviours. Here are just some examples:

  • Wheels on the Bus - spinning hands around each other - rotation
  • Row Row Your Boat - joining hands with a partner to row - connection
  • Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes - bending over to touch knees and toes provides a new 'upside-down' view point - orientation
  • Five Little Ducks - if counting and ordering the amount of ducks using props - positioning
  • Five Currant Buns - use prop buns and choose children to carry one away each time - transporting
  • Five Little Men in a Flying Saucer - crouch down and "zoom" bodies upwards into space - trajectory


Why not enjoy the magic of music at home with your children, to ensure they get the repetition, to maximise the potential benefits (and because it’s fun)?

School Ready Literacy Parent Pack (3-5 years)

School Ready Maths Parent Pack (3-5 years)

Minis Music Parent Pack (2-3 years)

Teenies Music Parent Pack (under 2’s)

The bonus is: Boogie Mites songs are enjoyed as much by adults as by children and they provide a fun way to learn together, bond and create magical music memories.

We also have a parent Facebook page: Boogie Mites Music Club, and can also be found on Instagram, Twitter and even TikTok!



You can enjoy the magic of music in your setting, maximising the potential benefits of using music to develop key skills in Early Years. There's a great selection of Practitioner Programmes to choose from:

Or you can take a look at the Practitioner Training options here:

We also have a practitioner Facebook page: Boogie Mites | Portsmouth | Facebook, and a BRAND NEW practitioner Facebook Group: Boogie Mites ABCD™ Music Community | Facebook, and can also be found on Instagram, Twitter and even TikTok!

Feel the beat...... with Boogie Mites!
Happy Boogie-ing!

At Play Makes Sense, we use music in many of our activities to support children's understanding of phonics, maths and the whole of the Early Years Framework. To find out more, take a look at the activities below. 

Outdoor play Build the band
Build the band
from the Outdoor Play Activity Cards 

Phase 1 Phonics Activity Musical Story

Musical story from the Phase 1 Phonics Activity Cards