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The Positioning Schema 

Children exploring a positioning schema may be regimented in the ways that they play and how they sort or position items. They may put items in unusual places such as placing a car on the corner of each step on a staircase. You may also notice that children enjoy lining up objects, organising objects or sorting objects whilst tidying items into their place. They may be particular about routines, the order they get dressed and even placement of food on their plate. It can often be misconstrued as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), but it is a normal part of a child’s development as they explore patterns. 

Providing the right environment for positioning schemas

Children with a positioning schema will enjoy many elements of the environment as they sort and tidy items from around the provision. 

Treasure basket ideas

You can put together a wealth of different positioning treasure baskets that allow young children to explore similarities and differences, to sort and to line up:

  • Shape basket: create a basket filled with different shapes that children can sort. Younger children can explore the differences whilst older children will use their knowledge to group items.

  • Colour basket: as above children can sort the different colours. You could provide two colours to sort to begin with and then add more colours as children’s understanding develops.

  • Matching basket: fill a basket with different coloured pompoms and matching painted egg boxes to provide an opportunity for matching. 

Sensory play ideas

Add loose parts to malleable and wet materials to add sensory and messy elements to children’s exploration of positioning. Try some of the following:

  • Play dough

  • Dry sand

  • Shaving foam

  • Water

  • Wet sand

  • Oats

  • Jelly 


Literacy Ideas

There are lots of ways to incorporate sorting and positioning into literacy. 

Children can sort baskets of letters. You can repeat sounds as they do this.

Sorting sounds is another great way to bring Phase One phonics into their schema exploration: can the children find every object that has a ‘ssss’ sound?

Children can pair items or pictures that rhyme.

Why not create printouts of stories and ask children to correctly order the pictures? They can use the book to help them. 

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