понедельник, 20 февраля 2017 г.

Сhildren's Play Activity through the Paradigm of Sociological Imagination (Part 4)

Play as the Product of Children.
The Diversity of the Forms in Which Play May Appear.
The consideration of play as only the way to receive pleasure is inaccurate for different reasons. In the children’s play there is an opportunity to observe:
 1. ‘the zone of proximal development’ (Vygotsky, 1935, 1966, 1977);
2. the reproduction of a social world;
 3. the self-organisation of children;
 4.‘power relationships’.
1.According to the conception of Vygotsky (1935, 1966, 1977), the zone of proximal development can be visible in children’s play very well. While the child is playing alone or with friends, he/she is trying to pose problems, which decisions are more difficult than the decisions of problems, with which child meets in everyday life. 
For example, a little boy is learning to talk, but he does not want to do it during the ‘serious conversations’ with adults. Only when the favourite toy is appearing, he is trying to talk to this toy, answering not only simple questions about his name and age but constructing a  dialogue about the place of living, interests, favourite games.
A second situation, which is familiar to a lot of adults, is the process of writing a letter to Santa-Claus. The child is adding to the picture of a desirable gift the description of the situation and the toy, the words of gratefulness.  
2. During play, the child is constructing and reproducing the surrounding world, satisfying the emotional, psychological and social needs.

For example, I was the participant of the game, when a boy tried to understand the behaviour of girls in the situation of the first meeting: I played with dolls (I imitated the girls), and the boy wanted to understand what he must expect from the opposite gender, what he must do, in the case of a joint play. 
The construction of ‘own’ places using improvised materials also demonstrates the wishes of children to understand some parts of an adult world such as a family life, the functions of households, the plots of favourite movies and fairy tales.     
3. Children’s play is free in its expression and has not an obligatory set of rules, whether it is the play with dolls, automobiles, etc. At the same time, the children are self-organised in a free unstructured play: even the imaginative situation of play comprises the requirements to the individual behaviour in spite of the fact that the given situation does not demand the formulated installations. 
For example, while playing with dolls, the child is imagining him/herself mother or father (the toy is becoming a child) and he/she is following the trajectories of parental behaviour.
So, during free play, all children are active social actors who produce this form of social reality.  During the following presentation "Play and Games in the Drawings of Children", you will see it.


But if we talk about games with rules (chess, cards, football, hide-and-seek, etc.), we must understand that every game with rules contains an imaginary situation in a concealed or a non-concealed form.
A small toy is ‘playing’ a famous game “Monopoly”.
4. Play activity of children is one of the "languages" of children - one of the ways of the communication of children with world. The repeating conflicts, the chosen ‘habits and characters of toys’, can give some information about the lives of children. Power relationships in play are very informative in such cases.
First of all, external restrictions establish the power relationships in play and games: gender stereotypes, age frameworks, etc. define the status of children's play and games.
Historically some competitive games (and also antagonistic - with the using of force) were more associated with men and boys than with women and girls because the space of play and games was connected with risk and mysticism and it was not a ‘female' business (Sleptsova, Morozov, 2001).
Age restrictions existed too. These recommendations were sometimes very strict: for example, football ‘was allowed’ at the age of 17 – 18 years old, because the child has not enough preparation for this game until the recommended age (Philitis, 1927).
According to the results of the conducted researches, the association of some games with the gender and the age are also typical for the modern children. Rollers, skateboarding, hockey, football are attributes of adulthood for small children because only at the certain age these games will be permitted by parents, and children will play these games. Besides, skateboarding is the attribute of masculinity for boys.
But it is necessary to make a remark nowadays some girls don't lag behind in these games and break all stereotypes and ideas of gender inequality.
Secondly, power relationships of play have internal characteristics.
This circumstance is reflected in the children's folklore when using simple word manipulations the boys and the girls try to show that they are strong in verbal expressions, to protect themselves from the opponents.
To some extent this component of play is a part of the social institute, which helps children to satisfy the desire to try their hand, to learn the limits at the relationships between people. The conflict is a permanent element of a sociality and a life in the children's world, one of its brightest features: breaking the rules and adult instructions, kids check a degree of their autonomy and establish the rules among peers (Corsaro, 2011).
This statement is characteristic for the sociodramatic role play too, when children, imitating the behaviour of adults, receive force (Corsaro, 2012).
It is also typical for such obligatory element of children's play as the doll. The doll shows the ideas of authority, manipulation, social constructivism (Morozov, 2011); this subject is the source of fears and the tool of their overcoming. The child can identify him/herself with the doll, or he or she can destroy the toy, punish it, and show the authority.
Some games with rules comprise the power relationships. For example, the dodge-ball is a straight way to find out who is stronger and who is more courageous. But this harmless game may sometimes be considered as a real conflict between ‘weak' and ‘strong' children, the transformation of the conflict from a real life in a play life when there is a necessity to prove, that you are better than the ‘friend’ or the’ enemy’.
So, power relationships are deeply interconnected with the social context, include the relationships with adults, peers, and a broad sociohistorical context. They demand our attention. 
Thus, the play activity of children has subjective and objective characteristics. In play, children are active agents, who influence an existing social reality both in the imagination and in real life. This conclusion allows assuming that play activity can exist in the diversity of forms and contain this diversity.
To be continued.
Part 5.
Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.
Part 3 is here.
Please do not sell, post, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.

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