Skip to Content

Enveloping Schema – 21 Activities + Definition

Ever wondered why some young children seemed fascinated in wrapping up objects?

Or you might have kids that love burying things or hiding objects out of sight?

It’s called an enveloping schema, and it’s one of the most common schemas that you will witness in young children.

An enveloping schema is a child’s interest in wrapping up themselves or objects. They wrap things up until the object is completely out of sight.

These children are learning about shape and space.

In this post, I will describe exactly what an enveloping schema is, and offer many activities to help you support it.

I’ll describe all the benefits of why to support the schema and the positive results that this will bring.

Enveloping schema - hiding in a cardboard box

What Is A Schema?

A schema is a type of repetitive play demonstrated by children. It is a repeated pattern of behavior.

The theory of schemas has developed over the last 100 years.

Put simply, the idea is that children create a model of reality in their minds. They then test this model on the reality around them through repetitive behaviors.

For example, if a child is interested in placing toys or objects in long lines as part of their play, then they are most likely demonstrating a positioning schema.

Another example would be a child that is fascinated by moving objects around the space in a variety of ways, such as carrying things in buckets or pushing objects on trolleys. This child would probably be demonstrating a transporting schema.

Schemas help us to understand how children think and how they view the world. They also help children express their thinking and support them to understand reality.

What Is An Enveloping Schema?

An enveloping schema is an interest in wrapping up objects or themselves.

What Are They Learning?

Children demonstrating this kind of schema are experimenting with their own body awareness and a sense of one’s self. They are also interested in the concrete nature of objects, and how items maintain their form in different contexts.

They are learning about shape, space, measure, and volume.

What You Might Observe

Common things to witness include:

  • Enjoying playing hide and seek or peekaboo
  • Wrapping up teddies and dolls
  • Enclosing construction toys in various ways
  • Covering paintings
  • Creating dens to hide in

Enveloping Vs Enclosure

There is another of the most common schemas that is similar to enveloping. This is the enclosure schema.

How are they different?

Well, to put it simply, an enveloping schema is about covering the whole of an item so that it becomes completely out of sight.

Enclosure is more about surrounding an item, for example building a fence out of bricks around a toy. With enclosure, the object being enclosed can still be viewed.

Supporting Schemas

It is important to understand that schemas shouldn’t just be viewed as a theory or an abstract concept.

They are the central vehicle by which young children learn, and so every effort to support them will show large benefits.

Supporting schemas help children to:

·    Be more curious

·    Deepen the intensity of their play

·    Be more engaged in their learning and their environment

·    Learn at a faster rate

·    Flourish in their learning and thinking (Source)

·    Make excellent progress

For example, if a child is demonstrating an interest in mixing together materials, they may well be demonstrating a transformation schema. by placing equipment in your learning space such as whisks, spoons, and buckets, they will be able to transform a range of objects (for example, making potions in puddles).

Another example might be a child that is interested in throwing things. This is part of a trajectory schema.

By offering opportunities such as throwing bean bags into buckets, skittles games, or creating natural harmless objects to throw such as leaf confetti, this schema can be harnessed and supported in a positive way.

21 Activities To Support An Enveloping Schema

1. Ice Sculptures

These are really exciting!

The idea is 2 freeze objects so they are completely enclosed by ice.

You can either freeze sculptures outside (if you have an external temperature well below zero) or by placing sculptures in a freezer.

You need a variety of containers for this. You can create smaller ice sculptures in things like an ice cube tray.

For larger ones, go for things like buckets.

Get a container, fill it with water, and then place different objects in the water. Some great ideas include:

  • Sequins
  • Food coloring (for colored ice)
  • Toy figures
  • Shells or stones
  • Other loose parts

If you are learning about a particular theme, or if the children have a real interest in something, then target that.

For example, we created Elsa’s castle from Frozen. We used buckets from the sandpit, filled with water, and then with plastic figures from Frozen inside.

When you have created your finished ice sculptures, the day after is also a source of lots of learning, as you see the objects inside come back out as the ice melts.

This activity is also a brilliant one for children that demonstrate a transformation schema.

2. Provide Hammocks

Hammocks provide that feeling of being enclosed.

You can suspend hammocks from two nearby trees, or hang them in between posts or fences.

You can buy hammocks quite cheaply, or create your own from material and cord.

Children with an enclosing schema will use them to:

  • Wrap themselves up
  • Wrap up toys or teddies, and swing them
  • Wrap up their friends
  • Envelope objects such as leaves in the hammock
Girl in a hammock
Hammocks provide that feeling of being enveloped

3. Forest Bathing

Forest bathing is a Japanese invention that has begun to spread around the world.

This beautiful mindful activity is based on the idea of touching natural objects with bare feet.

This can be linked to enveloping by having your feet be completely covered by the natural object.

So you could have your feet covered in:

  • Leaves
  • Mud
  • Sand in a sandpit
  • Water in a tray

This activity is all about being present, and about experiencing the sensation of the objects on your feet.

Forest bathing with feet in mud
Forest bathing is a beautiful mindful experience, that taps into the instincts of an enveloping schema – thank you to Wildings Forest School for this picture

4. Burying ‘Treasure’ In Sand Or Soil

Many children love burying treasure and it is really great for those with an enveloping schema.

‘Treasure’ can come in many forms. Often just a stone or a shell will do the job.

Children enjoy digging holes in mud, sand, or soil. They can bury their ‘treasure’.

You can extend the activity further by encouraging them to create maps, or search for the treasure of others.

Burying treasure can also be a collaborative event, with many children all pitching in together.

5. Treasure Balls From Playdough

This is one of my favorite early phonics or math games.

Get a ball of playdough, and some little objects that have numbers or letters on them.

For example, you could have any of the following with numbers or letters on:

  • Buttons
  • Sequins
  • Little pieces of paper
  • Gems
  • Shells

These small items are going to be hidden inside a lump of playdough – a few inside each.

The kids have the job of trying to pick the items out.

If you are using letters, then you can try to build words as they come out.

Or you use it as a number recognition game with numerals.

It’s good to have a ‘treasure sheet’ of possible letters or numbers that they can match their findings to.

You can also play this game in the sand, mud, or in something like porridge oats. Just hide small objects in any of these substances and the game is the same.

Treasure ball game for enveloping schema
A treasure ball number game

6. Large Leaves To Wrap Things In

This is a great activity for kids of all ages.

All you need is to supply some large leaves.

The kids love wrapping up all sorts of objects, such as:

  • Pebbles
  • Flowers
  • Sticks
  • Stones

7. Wrapping Up Dolls

You will see many kids doing this in pretty much all educational settings.

Dolls can be wrapped up in all sorts of items, such as blankets or scarves.

You will often see the children covering the whole doll, including its head. This is the enveloping schema in action.

8. Burying Their Toes Or Fingers

Many children are really fascinated by this.

They will place their toes or fingers in any of the following:

  • Water in a water tray
  • Sand
  • Mud
  • Soil
  • Porridge oats
  • Gloop or slime

9. Blankets And Other Large Material

These offer all sorts of opportunities. A range of blankets, throws, scarves, or other materials, will be used by children to:

  • Wrap up themselves
  • Wrap up their friends
  • Wrap up dolls and teddies
  • Hide ‘treasure’ or other objects
  • Hide things they have made, like a construction out of lego

10. Large Boxes

This one is a real classic that you’ve probably witnessed many times and is great to support this type of schema.

Simply providing large boxes in your indoors and outdoors will lead to all sorts of learning opportunities.

But there will be many children that like to climb in the boxes, and completely close the lid. They may also climb in with others, or they might be interested in hiding objects inside the box.

This act will also sometimes be linked to imaginative play. So the box might become a spaceship or a dungeon for example.

Girl with an enveloping schema hiding in a cardboard box
Hiding in boxes is one of the most common enveloping schema behaviors

11. Dressing Up Clothes

Dressing up clothes offer children the opportunity to envelope different parts of their body. Pretty much anything will work, but particularly:

  • Face masks
  • Hats
  • Gloves to hide their hands
  • Scarves and throws to wrap around themselves
  • Cloaks and even blankets
  • Oversized clothes, like big coats

12. Hide and Seek

This is a classic game for those with an enveloping schema.

They will really enjoy finding hiding spaces where they are completely out of view, and also their body may be covered by objects (like a blanket or coat).

13. Sock Puppets

These can be as complex or simple as you want.

All you really need are some socks, but you can jazz up this activity by gluing things on or drawing directly onto the socks.

The simple act of covering their hands is appealing to many.

You can create sock puppets around a theme, or just do more of a freestyle thing. Even just having a box of socks in a reading area can work well.

14. Den-Making Materials

Provide lots of den-making materials, such as large sticks, tarpaulin, string, clothespins, sheets, and camouflage nets.

Children with an enveloping schema really enjoy creating new dens or hiding in ones made at an earlier date. They will particularly appreciate them if the den is all-enveloping, i.e. they can be completely hidden inside it.

A girl hiding in a stick den
Simple dens provide the opportunity to be hidden from sight

15. Dressing Teddies and Dolls

Putting clothes on teddies and dolls is also really beneficial. Once again, you will often see children ‘overdressing’ toys, so that they are completely wrapped up in multiple layers!

16. Peekaboo!

This classic game is a perfect choice for those with an enveloping schema.

They can play with adults, their friends, or I have even seen kids playing this with dolls, teddies, or puppets.

17. Mud Pies

These are brilliant fun! And they work really well for enveloping schemas if you add things inside the mud pies.

Children can dig up mud from the ground or from a digging plot. They can add water or stir.

Having some kind of mud kitchen is brilliant for these mud pies. The kids can use all kinds of pots, pans, and other utensils to create the pies.

You need something to put in them! It could be leaves, stones, or other kinds of loose parts.

Mix them in, and dollop out the pies onto plates or bowls.

18. Wrapping Presents

This is a great one at Christmas when you can have lots of elves in a grotto.

Pretty much all you need is a selection of toys from the environment that the children can select to be the ‘presents’.

Have big pieces of paper and lots of masking tape.

Wrap up the toys, tape them up, and you can also decorate the wrapping as well.

I find the decoration part is really good for reluctant writers, that are not normally interested in putting pen to paper in any way.

As well as enclosing the presents, there is also the opposite joy of opening them as well!

Often schemas work in opposites. For example, children that like to create a line of toys also like to destroy it (a positioning schema.) This is just as true for an enveloping schema, where children will both cover-up, and bring things back out into the open.

19. Baking Pies

Many kinds of baking include a level of enveloping, and a fantastic one is any kind of creation of a pie with a filling and a pastry case.

20. Wrapping Up Objects

I have always found this to work well in any kind of block area, or construction toy space.

If you give the kids some tape and big paper, many will happily wrap up the blocks or construction toys.

You can sometimes then draw on the wrapped-up objects. So a big oblong block can become a tower with windows, or a robot with a robot-head!

21. Making Fortune Cookies

This is a great activity to celebrate Chinese culture.

Create some kind of message or picture to put inside the cookie (depending on the age and level of skill of the children).

And then create some kind of simple cookie dough, and place the messages inside.

Summing Up

Enveloping schemas are really common and are demonstrated by a large number of children.

Watch out for any signs of children enjoying covering up objects or themselves, and then think about how you can support this behavior with the activities outlined above.

Select your currency