Right now my daughter is really into transporting. I don’t mean that she likes to play with trucks and cars (although she does). I’m talking about a schema called transporting that she is learning by systematically moving items from one part of our home to another. I’ve written before about schemas in general, but after watching E explore this particular schema I thought I’d write a bit more about it in detail.

photo credit: Jenna Westerholm

What it looks like: Systematically transporting items (or water) from one place to another using hands, bags, trucks, cups, etc.. 

Mistaken for: Random and purposeless behaviour and/or making a mess.

What child is learning: Schemas are patterns of behaviour through which children learn about the world around them. Repeating the behaviour over and over (and over and over and over!) allows children to understand the concept about which they’re learning more deeply. Which is why it’s ideal to let them repeat it until they feel ready to move on.
When working through the transporting schema, a child is not only learning about transporting she is experiencing it. What does it look like, feel like and sound like to transport different objects? What about heavy objects? What about awkwardly shaped ones? How do you transport liquids? What about something like lentils? Where can you take them? How many different ways can they travel? The possibilities are endless but the more that can be experienced the more fully a child will understand the concept of transporting.
This experience will be the foundation upon which she builds all other practical and theoretical understanding of transporting throughout her life so the more experience she can get now, the better her foundation. This isn’t to say that if she doesn’t get to experience transporting as a child she’ll never understand the concept as an adult. But if she’s able to lay the foundation well in childhood (and that’s precisely what play does – lays experiential foundations for larger abstract concepts) she’ll be better equipped to understand the more abstract aspects of transporting as she grows.

How to support: There are SO many ways to support transporting so I’ll just name a few that we’ve found helpful. If you have any other ideas please do share them in the comments section!

  • Make time for larger blocks of uninterrupted play – It can take time to get into the rhythm of transporting. If a child is always coming and going or is being bombarded with adult-led activities she won’t find the rhythm. Feel free to observe her and narrate her play (You’ve moved all the cups from the cupboard to the table) but try not to ‘help’ her unless she specifically asks for it.
  • Provide resources for transporting
    • Materials to transport – any items that are small and light enough for a child to manipulate; also water, lentils, pasta, sand
    • Containers in which to transport them –  bags, trucks, baskets, bowls, wheelbarrows, strollers, cups, buckets, etc.
  • Provide ‘depots’ – The lowest shelf in our kitchen pantry is now a designated E shelf and she loves transporting items from this shelf to various locations about the house.
  • Offer other activities that will develop the concept of transporting further, such as:
    • role playing supermarket or postman
    • using a pulley with bucket
    • watering plants
    • bringing items to the dinner table
    • delivering items to other people

Here are a couple of websites I’ve found helpful in understanding transporting:


Happy transporting!