When I was in graduate school, many of my classmates complained that our professors had lost touch with what was happening in the classrooms and that their teaching was not applicable. Now that I am not a classroom teacher, I think often of what I ask of my teachers. And I try to spend enough time in the classrooms that I have a pretty good understanding of the life they are living with kids and families. I believe that an important part of my work is collecting evidence so I rarely leave my office without my camera and a notebook. And these bits and pieces of the work and play that is happening in our classrooms every day build a foundation for my writing, directing, and communicating.
In The Power of Play, David Elkind writes about the shift in the kinds of toys and play materials available to our young children. What do we want children to be doing and learning at preschool? And how does the answer to that question influence the materials and toys we have in our classrooms? The dress-up corner is a great example of this. What are children learning when they play in our kitchen or home keeping areas? Vivian Paley wrote many books exploring the important learning that happens when children try on different roles such as mommy and daddy, sister, brother, or baby. Often we use this area for thematic role-playing, vet shop, flower shop, or grocery store. These are wonderful activities but my concern comes when we begin to spend money on “costumes” for this play. When little girls play in mommy’s closet, trying on shoes that don’t fit or dress that are too big, they are learning that this is a role that you grow into, not one that fits perfectly right now. What happens when the dress-up corner is stocked with princess costumes or super-hero gear sized for 3 and 4-year-olds? I don’t have an answer. I am not even sure if there is a downside to this, but I am wondering about it. And I am beginning to collect evidence. So, we will see.