Beyond uniform reproduction: Exploring children’s imaginative play through the lenses of their teacher

The voices of both early childhood education teachers and children tend to be weak in the choir of agents that constitute the aims and practices of early childhood education. In this article, a video that a teacher made of four children playing dragons, followed by open-ended interviews exploring why she found this particular activity of interest and then open-ended interviews with the involved children while watching and commenting on the video, forms the basic material for discussing how children’s imaginative play can inform what might be valuable activities in early childhood education. The theoretical framework and concepts for analysis draw on an understanding of cultural formation and a cultural-historical approach that outlines children’s development through participation in activities framed by contextual conditions. By tracing conflicts caused by differences in the involved children’s values and motives while meeting conditions and demands in their context, at the personal, institutional and societal levels, the exploration of friendship, danger, space, institutional rooms and what good play ‘is’ are depicted in children’s imaginative role play. From this, imaginative play is seen as being endowed with valuable activities in early childhood education and forms a contrast to the emphasis on future academic competences that are far removed from the children’s experiences. © 2018, The Author(s) 2018.

The voices of both early childhood education teachers and children tend to be weak in the choir of agents that constitute the aims and practices of early childhood education. In this article, a video that a teacher made of four children playing dragons, followed by open-ended interviews exploring why she found this particular activity of interest and then open-ended interviews with the involved children while watching and commenting on the video, forms the basic material for discussing how children’s imaginative play can inform what might be valuable activities in early childhood education. The theoretical framework and concepts for analysis draw on an understanding of cultural formation and a cultural-historical approach that outlines children’s development through participation in activities framed by contextual conditions. By tracing conflicts caused by differences in the involved children’s values and motives while meeting conditions and demands in their context, at the personal, institutional and societal levels, the exploration of friendship, danger, space, institutional rooms and what good play ‘is’ are depicted in children’s imaginative role play. From this, imaginative play is seen as being endowed with valuable activities in early childhood education and forms a contrast to the emphasis on future academic competences that are far removed from the children’s experiences. © 2018, The Author(s) 2018.

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