It’s playtime at the Geraldyn O. Foster Early Childhood Center in Bridgeton, N.J., and in one corner of a busy classroom, 4-year-olds Zee Logan and Emmy Hernandez want to play bookstore.
In a normal preschool, playing bookstore would be a pretty casual affair. They would just pick up some books, set the shiny toy cash register on the table by the blackboard, and get down to business.
But this isn’t a normal school. It’s based on the Tools of the Mind program. In other words, it’s a school where almost every moment of the day is devoted in some way to teaching the kids â€” mostly low-income children who live in the poor surrounding community â€” how to regulate their behavior and emotions.
So before Emmy and Zee even think about picking up a toy, they sit down with their teacher at a small classroom table and fill out some paperwork.
In the audio for the story a psychologist talks about how free play and imaginative games actually teach children to control their impulses because the imagination games are always governed by social and cultural norms and narratives (the psychologists mentions the rules of parenthood and going to sleep as her examples). But, looking at the Abu Ghraib photos I posted last night, and thinking about the book I’m reading about men’s violence against women, what if it is those rules that are problematic or even dangerous? How can the play of children help them to question or transcend the norms they perceive and follow in their lives and communities?
Still, the idea of preparation for imaginative play, as discussed in this story seems to offer some possibility to this. Children and teachers could discuss the differences between their perceived norms, or decide upon fantastic new rules for their play that might not be drawn from their actual experiences or perceptions (e.g. when playing house fathers and mothers must share cleaning responsibilities equally).