Often, children process life experiences through their play. My classroom's dramatic play area mimicked a house, complete with pretend kitchen appliances, a dining set, and baby dolls. In my classroom, the house area was full with four students, usually girls. Each girl had two “necessary” accessories 1) a baby doll 2) a rectangular object that could be used as a cell phone. A typical play session in this area involved students alternating between soothing their baby dolls to screaming into their “phones” at unnamed family members or a baby daddy, “how could you do this to me?” or “I'm gonna call the police on you!” After observing this pattern, I suggested extensions to their play. For example, “hang up, don't keep talking to someone who is upsetting you,” or “all this yelling is stressful for your baby, how can we make it feel safe?” By suggesting alternative reactions to play scenarios, I helped students explore new ways of interacting with familiar problems. The context of play enabled students to take social risks that they may not have been comfortable trying out in real-life scenarios. Dramatic play can help children process their experiences, both positive and negative, by reenacting them, responding to them, and assuming different roles in the situation.
Loving Creator, give us the courage to meet children where they are in their play. Help us recognize play as a powerful tool for learning new ways to respond to the violence in our environment. Amen.
Erika Sanders graduated from Chapman University in 2013 with a degree in Peace and Conflict Studies. During her time as a student, Erika worked as the youth group director for a local United Church of Christ congregation. In 2014, Erika moved to Chicago to participate in Teach for America. She taught preschool in a Head Start center on the south side of Chicago for two years. Erika recently completed her Masters degree in Early Childhood Education and is a credentialed teacher.
A Little More...Play and Children's Learning: http://www.naeyc.org/playOur 2016 prayer vigil theme is Helping Our Children Heal from Violence. For more resources visit disciplesjustice4children.org and docfamiliesandchildren.org.