Friday, June 24, 2011

By Example

There's a social learning theory in anthropology based on mimetic (imitative) play. It supposes that children learn work and life skills modeling the predominant adults in their lives by turning observed work into play.

Self-explanatory, easy to observe.

Thus, in our carefully protective society wherein all playgrounds are lawsuit padded, we might harness early learning by giving a child a set of plastic dishes and plastic food wherewith s/he practices cutting, cooking, eating, and cleaning. We might buy a little faux vacuum cleaner or a set of AA-battery power tools with which s/he can "help" us build shelves or change a tire.

Yes, it is imaginative play, but it is also imitative.

We think it's cute.

It's also a valuable part of figuring out how to survive.

Of course, in many societies, children skip the plastic toys and move straight to real tools. They might still "play" with them until they are skilled enough to use them for their true designated purpose. While mama skins a fish, baby pretends to skin a fish... only sometimes baby is given a real knife to use while imitating the fish-skinning work/play.

Here's an example.

When I lived on a kibbutz in Israel, I was surprised by the playground. It looked nothing like the neighborhood playgrounds with which I grew up nor like the playgrounds Bridgette visits.

There were no swings, no soft wood chips, no towers to climb, no slides, and no rubber coatings. It contained an old rusty refrigerator, broken furniture, sundry other appliances, and most notably, a tank. Not a fish tank. A... tank! Like military grade.

The man who introduced me to this "play" area explained that children must learn, and how better to do it? And, "If they get hurt, they learn not to do that action again."

(Watch the documentary called "BABIES" to see four specific examples of how children are raised differently in different places, but all employ some form of mimetic play. Here is the BABIES Movie Trailer.)

At some point, no matter which society, these activities move from "play" to actual "work" but it can still feel like "play." For example, Bridgette helps me do the laundry. It's real work, but she loves it.

It's -- Just! So! Fun!

Then, a bit later, "work-play" simply becomes "work," and we lose the joy of endless laundry. Yet, based on public health principles of preventive intervention, washing clothes, blankets, and towels may, in fact, help us survive. Especially when they're covered in... you know... whatever.

Hot water and soap!

Good thing she likes to "play" laundry.

You might have noticed that in some places, children... very young children... go to real work, working real jobs (dangerous, tedious and/or back-bending jobs) at tender ages. My impression is that those children lose the joy of work-play earlier than others. It's somewhat evident in this elucidating documentary by Frederick Rendina and Oren Rudavsky: To Educate a Girl - Movie Trailer.

Well, everything above was a little intro to this video below, wherein I prove (based strictly on observing Bridgette's mimetic work-play) that I am *not* an accomplished gardener.



April said...

Oh that was adorable!!!

Lore said...

But, she *is* trying! Effort has to count for something, for both you and her.

Kel said...

Thanks, Mum. We are now the proud owners of a new, much smaller, cartoon themed plastic trowel... the better with which to work-play. I think if she loses the arm length rose-gloves, we might just be able to plant those pots tomorrow after all.

Alisha said...

Oh, I just loved that post!! Being a developmental preschool teacher just added to the "sweet factor" about your definition of "work/play" She is SOo cute!

123 checkoutourfamily said...

hahaha...that's hilarious