Supporting early childhood professionals worldwide in
their efforts to craft thriving environments for children and adults.
By Elizabeth JonesGo to page: 1 2 3 4 5
How did you play as a child? Ask this question in a group of adults and most can talk with pleasure about neighborhood games, outdoor adventures, and cozy hiding places. Ask, "What did you learn by playing?" and the answers are remarkably thoughtful, encompassing creative imagination, moral judgment, negotiation, physical skills, and courage.
Once when I asked these questions of a teaching staff, one teacher insisted that she didn't play as a child. There were knowing nods among her colleagues; a notorious workaholic and perfectionist, she was an inflexible thinker unable to compromise on program issues. "I'll bet there's a connection," one of them said thoughtfully. I'll bet there is, too.
The spontaneous play of young children is their highest achievement. In their play, children invent the world for themselves and create a place for themselves in it. They are re-creating their pasts and imagining their futures, while grounding themselves in the reality and fantasy of their lives here-and-now. (Jones and Reynolds, 1992, p. 129)
Children at play are constructing their individual identities as well as their knowledge of the world. The choosing child is saying, in effect, "This is who I am. This is what I want to do. This is what I need to do it with. When I play with others, I can negotiate with them to include my experiences as well as theirs. We talk about what we're doing, and we act it out. I need to keep playing until I'm done." (Jones, 1990, p. 11)
What's play? Choosing for oneself. Children need to play, and so do adults, especially those who spendmuch of their time with children. Working in child care, it's important that adults be able to make choices for themselves, inventing things they like to do, rather than simply implementing plans made by someone else. As any child can tell you, if someone else makes you do it, it's not play. Teachers, like children, are most competent when they're playing - that is, when they're staying alert to the action and the possibilities, choosing, planning, negotiating, and elaborating.
Play is invented by each player; imitation is not the same as play. Good teaching ideas often reflect a particular teacher's preferred play mode. In Vivian Paley's "storyplay" (1981), she invites children to dictate stories and later casts them to be enacted in the group. Linda Gibson, discovering that three year olds' fascination with the sound patterns of language matched her own (she was writing a dissertation on children's wordplay), ended each morning in her preschool class with "Rhyme Time" (1989, pp. 53-54). My own children at home frequently re-created dramatic episodes from the stories I read to them:
"Little Girl, why for you move?" asks the Gunniwolf.
"I no move," she answers, trembling.
"Then you must sing me that guten sweeten song again," he growls.
"Kum-kwa, khi-wa," she sings, until her song puts him to sleep and she can run pitty-pat home, hoping he won't come hunker-cha hunker-cha after her - and Michael as Gunniwolf pounced on his sister Suzanne time after time. She loved both the scariness and the power of her song (Little Girl always gets away). (Harper, 1967)
>> Next Page