Earlier this week the educational leaders at my service and myself were discussing imaginative play and the topic of characters came up. We found ourselves caught up in a fascinating discussion on the role of these characters in imaginary play. I am a self confessed character hater! I guess I should clarify - the characters themselves aren't really the problem, I mainly hate the merchandise that seems to accompany them and the message that sends to children and the subsequent pressure it puts on families. Sure a kid might love watching Dora the Explorer and even get some educational benefits from it (I couldnt be sure on that myself - so far in life I have been fortunate not to find myself watching it)but does everything in their life have to be branded with Dora - Dora backpack, lunchbox, sheet set, clothing, pyjamas and even their food?!
Anyway, slightly sidetracked! Back to the discussion - knowing the issues I have with characters one of the educators asked what was wrong with the children using characters in role play situations and if it was any different to children taking on other non commercial characters such as a policeman? Also - was there a difference between more modern characters such as Spiderman and Dora and traditional characters like snow white?
This really took some thinking - what was my issue with this and was it valid? I guess for me it comes down to some key points:
* The "limits" of characters - each character has a specific bio. They talk a certain way or dress a certain way and don't deviate from that, meaning that children taking on the role of these characters in dramatic play situations may be limiting themselves.
* The behaviours of some characters - regardless of whether the character is modern, traditional or non-commercialised, for me it is about the appropriateness of their behaviour. Any character who is aggressive or mean does not sit well with me
* It concerns me if children have to rely on someone elses imagination to play. A child's vivid imagination is one of the most delightful things. It always bothers me when I overhear a group of children playing and one says "You can't do that, Spiderman doesn't do that!"
We ran out of time to really get into a good in depth discussion about it... so I would love to get into it on here!!
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