Does your child love to play with wooden trains?
What is it about this type of play that children find so fascinating?
This obsession is driven by psychological constructs known as "schemas". Schemas are like mental roadmaps that help children understand the world around them. They're repeated patterns of behavior that toddlers and preschoolers exhibit during play and exploration and they're crucial to their cognitive development. Your child's inclination to stack blocks, line up their toys or run their toy trains along the track are all expressions of different schemas.
Understanding these schemas is pivotal as it allows us to better connect with our children, support their learning and stimulate their curiosity.
So let’s take a look at playing with trains - although, of course, we’re not really looking at trains at all. We’re learning about how our children learn.
Schemas for wooden railway play
Schemas help children understand all areas of life, but not all activities touch on all schemas. What makes wooden trains so compelling is that they have something for everyone. Whatever your current dominant schema, your train set has something to offer.
Propel your child's focus on the train's journey along the track, from station A to station B. This exercise can hone their understanding of direction, speed, and distance as they observe and engage with the locomotives.
While your child is engrossed in train play, underscore the essence of transportation. Break down how trains ferry goods or passengers from one point to another. This conversation can illuminate the role of transportation in our daily lives.
Steer your child's curiosity towards how trains latch onto each other and how tracks interlock. This exploration can boost their spatial thinking and problem-solving abilities as they brainstorm different arrangements with the trains and tracks.
Sprinkle elements like tunnels or overpasses into your child's play. As trains vanish into tunnels, they're enveloped, bolstering their understanding of object permanence - the principle that even if something isn't in sight, it still exists. Encourage your tyke to ponder the train's location, even when it's out of sight.
Aid your child in grasping the concept of enclosures by guiding them to craft a complete circuit with the track. This activity can enhance their spatial consciousness and problem-solving prowess as they work out the track configuration to form a closed loop.
Furthermore, consider the importance of rotation schema – the interest in turning objects around or turning themselves around. By manipulating train elements like a turntable, children can understand how items interact with their space, enhancing their perspective of physical relationships.
In addition, the positioning schema also plays a role when children experiment with arranging train components in specific ways - for instance, arranging trains in a line or stacking blocks to form a station. This contributes to their understanding of order, sequence, and spatial relationships.
By immersing your child in these schema play activities using a wooden toy train set, you're not just adding to their cognitive development and understanding of various concepts, but also transforming playtime into a fun-filled learning escapade.
Wooden train sets are more than just a source of entertainment: they serve as a powerful tool for understanding and engaging with a range of schemas — from trajectory to enveloping. As parents, it's essential for us to recognize and nurture this play-based learning. By encouraging schema play, we not only fuel our children’s cognitive development but also connect with them on a deeper level. So, the next time your child is engrossed in railway play, take a moment to appreciate the learning journey they're on. Remember, it's not 'just play' — it's a young mind exploring the complexities of the world. Make every moment count, make every playtime a thrilling journey of discovery, because for your child, these wooden trains are the vehicles of imagination, exploration, and understanding.