“the sheer number of toys owned by contemporary children weakens the power of playthings to engage children in dramatic thinking. Abundance, like familiarity, breeds contempt.” David Elkind, The Power of Play
Only sixteen pages into this book and Elkind puts words to a concern that has been bubbling up in my mind of late. As I visit classrooms, I see children playing but not engaged. They are pushing legos around on the table but not creating a story, not interacting with the materials or their peers in ways that engage thinking and conversation. I remember our own daughters, spending hours with legos and playmobile, talking all the while about the content of their play, creating a story for the characters they were making. Last spring, we pulled their box of legos off the shelf. There was a layer of dust on top (at ages 23 and 25, they had not played legos in a while). But when we opened the box, they both laughed and the words rushed out. They were remembering the last time they had played, the story of the park and the snack bar at the beach, and there, inside of that dusty box, was evidence of their play. Pieces of the snack bar were still assembled. The people were gathered around a table. I too remembered this play. I remembered hearing them talking and planning and playing in the next room. How do we get back to that level of play in our classrooms? How do we move away from needing to have so many “things” and back to having the important materials that will nurture the child’s curiosity, play, and conversation?