Friday, January 16, 2009

Imagination or just copying?

As I mentioned in my last post, I am interested in Waldorf philosophy, but I actually liked having some knowledge of pop culture growing up, and didn't feel limited by knowing about cartoon characters. My daughter doesn't recognize a lot of characters on sight, and definitely doesn't associate any specific storyline with any characters. I was pondering this yesterday when we were sitting in the play area of the McDonald's. It was the closest indoor play area to me, and we had been cooped up way too long in the cold weather. As we ate our lunch, I watched 4 little boys playing. They seemed to be about 3-5 years old. It became apparent that they were acting out scenes from Star Wars. I am probably overly-familiar with most Star Wars plots, but the  action didn't look familar. My thought at the time (and I still lean in this direction) is that they were acting out scenes from the Clone Wars. Since these are cartoons, some parents seem to think they are appropriate for all ages. One of the reasons I think they were acting out scenes and not making it up as they went along is that any time one of the boys varied from the "script" another boy would shout "No! that's not how it goes!"

So, my question is this: Is it impressive that they were able to remember complex plot lines in order to act them out in the play area of McDonald's or would it be far more impressive at their ages if they were acting out a story of their own making? (From what I could tell, the boys knew each other in sets of two. Each set appeared to be strangers to one other.) I'm leaning toward, gee, can't kids be allowed to be kids? Star Wars really isn't for the preschool set.


MAM said...

This hits very close to home with a preschool boy at home. If it were up to me I would have delayed the fascination with superheros for a bit longer but it is everywhere.

We do not watch Star Wars but we do have a bit of an obsession with the Justice League, Superhero, Batman & Spiderman. I let him watch these shows but I watch with him. I rejoice when he prefers Calliou, Bernstein Bears or Dragon Tales.

My little one has definitely been influenced by the shows he watches and weaves them into his imaginative play. He'll boldly announce that a Optimus Prime, a transformer, has come over to play and I without doubt give his "friend" a snack as well as my son. My son just looks at me with a big smile and continues his playdate.

For me it boils down to the fact that the greatest influence on a child should be the parent. We should be the toys most played with. Sometimes that means watching a show together, other times playing superhero/bad guys with figures or role play and sometimes by just playing along.


Jennifer said...

I don't know about this, because a lot of playing at that kind of preschool age IS copying. We try to set a good example for our kids because we know they will copy us and they learn from doing that. So kids that age learn from copying, so I don't think it is a bad thing for them to copy things they see (the violent aspect of a Star Wars cartoon is a different issue). Still though, Seth gets frustrated at me if I deviate from his imagined protocol for his playing, completely imagined or not. His cars were "talking" to each other about a "special playground park" just now, and when I interrupted to ask how it was special, I was admonished not to ask that. In playing, we often have to talk about asking nicely and talking nicely because he can get quite upset when you don't do what he thinks is supposed to happen. So it's possible that one kid was just the leader and he had some kind of idea exactly what was supposed to happen in the game.

Drew&Samsmom said...

drew has never seen starwars/clonewars but he can identify them in the stores because brandons mom bought him a starwars plate/fork/glass set to eat with. we told him that its starwars so now anytime we see something that has starwars on it - he points it out to me. we were at the peddlers mall the other day and he was like "look ! starwars". Who would've known?

to your point... kids remember everything...sometimes its just down right amazing... with that being said, i feel much better about my boy when i hear him telling a story that he makes up. let me tell you, hes starting to become very animated!

momandkiddo said...

This reminds me of an incident at the playground in which another 3 year old wanted to play Batman and Kiddo had no idea what he was talking about. ----Thank goodness.

Anonymous said...

My students (18-21 yr old) talk about this issue quite a bit in my women's studies class (we talk about it in terms of the impact of media on child/gender/relational development). Inevitably, a student will bring up the issue of little kids mimicking the behaviors seen on a tv show like Power Rangers and whether or not they understand what they are doing. I think that how a child chooses to act out these scenes tells a great deal about his/her thought process. If a child remembers the scenes and doesn't want others to deviate, could it mean that they are more concrete or rote learners? Or do they subconsciously feel more control (obviously, not fully realized control)? But if a child takes what he/she knows about a scene and embellishes it, does this mean they are more creative or abstract thinkers? Hmmm.......maybe. :-D