Why does my child like building dens and playing in tents? The encloser schema explained

Does your child like making enclosures for their toys? Do they create fences made from blocks or cardboard? Then your child is likely to be exploring their enclosing schema. Children with enclosing schemas love containing themselves and other objects, but it’s absolutely nothing to worry about.

Enclosing schemas are all about trying out sizes, shapes and area. Children love building a space that they and their toys can get into and look out at the world from. It’s not necessarily hiding away, or enveloping. Envelopers wrap objects up, often removing them from sight, while enclosers will simply contain an object.

When children enclose, they are doing all sorts of mathematical equations in their heads; how big does my fort need to be to get all my toys in? How strong does it need to be to hold my teddies? They are also learning that objects or ideas can be contained in a discrete space, and that everything outside that space is a separate entity.

To support a blossoming enclosing schema, try:

  • Building fences and barricades with blocks or Lego
  • Enclose painting, drawings or writing with a line frame
  • Fill and empty containers
  • Play inside tunnels or large empty boxes
  • Build cages, houses, garages etc with blocks.

Eventually, with practice, enclosing leads to letter formation. The hand that holds the crayon drawing endless spirals on the page becomes dextrous. They can draw circles for ‘o’ and ‘p’ and ‘d’. It is also central to drawing faces and bodies. So, your current encloser could be a budding Vincent Van Gogh!