Schemas: Disconnecting

What To Look For

"This schema is easy to spot and is characterised by separating (or disconnecting) things. It can also involve dismantling or scattering."

  • This might seem destructive, but it is (usually) just another form of focused exploration. ("What happens if I do this?")
  • Disconnecting (along with connecting) is a preliminary skill for writing. We separate groups of letters to make words.

Children displaying this schema may also like to:

  • watch activities that involve disconnecting
  • read books about disconnecting
  • play games where they disconnect from something, such as letting go of a rope swing and falling on a soft play-mat.

How To Enhance Learning In This Schema

Talk to the child about what he/she is doing

  • Give them words to describe what they are doing, such as separating, removing, unhooking, cutting or dividing.; Look for ways to encourage exploration. Ask questions, like:
  • What do you think will happen if you drop the pick-up sticks from higher?
  • Can you think of another way to chop the playdough?
  • What does it feel like to knock the blocks over?

Create increasingly stimulating and challenging set-ups

  • Children need familiarity and repetition, but also variety and challenge.
  • Without making drastic changes, look for ways to increase the complexity and challenge of a disconnecting setup.

Provide for groups of children with similar schemas

• Look for ways to enable groups of children with similar schemas to play together. They will stimulate each other, providing encouragement and new ideas.

Read books about disconnecting

  • Children love to hear and read stories about things they are interested in.
  • Reading books with disconnecting themes will extend their disconnecting vocabulary and give them opportunities to explore new ideas about disconnecting.

Take pictures and write learning stories

&bull Children learn by revisiting activities again and again. Looking at photos and reading learning stories is a way of revisiting, and an opportunity for children to deepen their understanding of the activity.

Play Ideas That Involve Disconnecting

&bull The behaviour associated with a disconnecting schema can sometimes be difficult to deal with, so provide plenty of opportunities for a positive experience.

Here are some ideas:

Pulling apart LEGO or Mobilo pieces
Getting the child to help with putting away equipment (especially train tracks!
Chopping, pulling apart or pressing shapes out of playdough.
Connecting and pulling apart magnetic toy trains
Breaking a mandarin into pieces
Knocking down a tower (one the child has made; not someone else!)
Scattering pick-up sticks
Smashing ice or demolishing a sand castle
Pulling apart a marble run
Disassembling an old piece of equipment (e.g. a telephone)
Breaking butter into flour
Sawing pieces of wood in two
Unzipping a jacket
Overturning a jigsaw puzzle

Te Whāriki

  • By supporting a child's schema, such as disconnecting, you are encouraging their exploration, empowering them in their passion and nurturing their wellbeing. These are three of the strands of Te Whāriki.
  • To learn more about Te Whāriki, visit the website.


Getting started with schemas, by Nikolien van Wijk
Schemas in Areas of Play chart (PDF)

Learning stories

Our thanks to the Auckland Playcentre Shop for permission to use this article. Great play starts here.