When children twirl around, roll down a hill or just wind their hair around a pencil, they’re exploring their rotation schema. Anything circular - wheels, twirly straws, being swung around by a grown-up, ring-a-roses: these are all experiences of rotation.
Does your son like to watch the washing machine go round? Does your daughter love to spin with her arms outstretched? If so, they may be exploring their rotation schema.
A schema is a mental model of how things work. Children like to repeat certain actions until they have understood the process exactly.
Rotation, of course, is the idea that things can turn through 360 degrees only to end up back where they started. Your child might love pin wheels, spinners, drawing circles or rolling downhill.
As with all schemas, to truly understand rotation you have to encounter it in many forms and over a long period of time. Do you remember rotational symmetry from your primary school days? Or rotating magnetic fields in secondary school science. It all started at six months when you dropped a ball and watched it roll away.
Schema play is natural. Children don't need your encouragement to explore the concepts. But knowing which schemas your child currently favours can help you to find activities that will keep them happily engaged for far longer than any toy.
Depending on your child's age, you could try the following:
- Connect nuts and bolts
- Twirl streamers
- Use screwdrivers and spanners (under supervision!)
- Make pinwheels
- Turn keys in locks and padlocks
- Draw spirals in sand or with finger paint
- Mix and whisk cake ingredients
You'll notice there are no toys here. Schema play is spontaneous and happens almost accidentally when your child encounters and interesting object.
Look around the room now. What rotation fun is waiting to be discovered?