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Selecting materials for dramatic play that support culturally rich play

  • 1.  Selecting materials for dramatic play that support culturally rich play

    Posted 24 days ago
    I am looking for suggestions to support culturally rich play, especially for dramatic play.

    I am troubled by many of the commercially available "multicultural" products that seem to be very stereotypical (e.g. "multicultural costumes", "ceremonial costumes", specific food items).

    Looking forward to hearing from this group!


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    Mira Berkley
    Quality Improvement Specialist
    QUALITYstarsNY
    Fredonia NY
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  • 2.  RE: Selecting materials for dramatic play that support culturally rich play

    Posted 23 days ago
    Hi Mira,
    I agree that some - if not most - commercially available products here aren't terrific. After a point I did my very best to get rid of those plastic products (which are also ridiculously expensive) and look for authentic dramatic play props. Have you thought about soliciting items from your students families? I found that my students themselves were often the best source here. For example, I invited them to recycle examples (clean packaging) of their families' favorite foods and other items representative of their family lives. It takes time and effort, but I found the result was much preferable to the pre-fab dramatic play props.

    Dan

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    Dan Wuori
    Director of Early Learning
    The Hunt Institute
    Durham NC
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  • 3.  RE: Selecting materials for dramatic play that support culturally rich play

    Posted 22 days ago
    Another great discussion with interesting and useful ideas.  One dress-up idea is to have no clothes at all but a lot of scarves, bandannas, and large pieces of material for children to use as blankets for themselves, dolls, and stuffed animals, and to wrap, tie (safe as long as it's not around their necks), and drape around their bodies for clothing.  Some of the material can be prints from different cultures.  I once got end pieces of cloth from a tailor from Kenya who made clothes from material from her country, and was gifted cloth from a sari from a parent.

    Asking parents to donate different cooking items from home, such as a small wok, a tortilla press, etc. is great.  Having them take photos of their child's dinner plate and making a book is good in theory.  In practice it might be difficult for and shame families who are experiencing food insecurity.  I learned that the hard way with a similar project.

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    Aren Stone
    Child Development Specialist
    The Early Years Project
    Cambridge, MA
    she/her
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  • 4.  RE: Selecting materials for dramatic play that support culturally rich play

    Posted 20 days ago
    Exactly what Dan said. You could leave requests at parent meetings, newsletters etc. Leave a drop off spot so its ongoing. Also try to provide a few examples so you are inundated with a bunch of stuff you can't use. If parents don't see their donations being used, it can cause hurt feelings. Have families come in to read a children's story in their home language. This is fun too! Also invite families to bring in their favorite children's music in home language. All kids love to listen to, and learn some of the words. Use universal print in your environment.

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    Kelly Clark
    Early Achievers Coach
    Everett WA
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  • 5.  RE: Selecting materials for dramatic play that support culturally rich play

    Posted 23 days ago
    I am an international teacher and don't often have commercial type toys available to me, so I look for open ended materials like play dough or felt squares that children will use to emulate the play of their family experience.  I was delighted to find one of my Korean students folding play dough into small lumps as she told me she was making "mandu" which is a Korean dumpling.  She then showed all the kids at the table how to fold them properly.  The more open ended the more creative they will be.

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    Jody Hopkins
    Kindergarten Teacher
    Asia Pacific International School
    Nowon-gu, Seoul
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  • 6.  RE: Selecting materials for dramatic play that support culturally rich play

    Posted 23 days ago
    Some teachers visit local thrift shops and flea markets to get clothing and other items that represent the local community.
    I use an example in my presentations of a teacher who told me she asked families to email her photos of their child's plate at dinner. She used the photos of each child's dinner to create classroom books. You could also print each picture, cut out the plate and laminate it to use as pretend food in the kitchen area - truly representing the child's home culture.
    Ask families to send in empty food containers that they actually use at home - clean and laminate as needed for the kitchen area.
    Education managers in Migrant Seasonal Head Start programs bring in items the families use in their work rather than ordering artificial things from catalogs. And.. don't order music until you know what the child really listens to at home.  Does that help?
    I hope lots of other ideas come through!

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    Karen Nemeth
    Author/consultant/keynotes
    Language Castle LLC
    Allentown PA
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  • 7.  RE: Selecting materials for dramatic play that support culturally rich play

    Posted 23 days ago
    Dear Mira,

    When I had a dramatic play area in my classroom, I always included supermarket ads, both from home and from students.  I find that local advertisements often reflect the population.  I am also noticing that stores such as Target, Kohl's, etc. have ads that are much more multicultural than they used to be.  They are also good to include in a center.  Last, providing many open ended art materials allows children to create their own "props".

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    Gina James
    Teacher
    NYCDOE
    Williston Pk NY
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  • 8.  RE: Selecting materials for dramatic play that support culturally rich play

    Posted 23 days ago
    Musical instruments are an easy way to introduce culture. In addition, look for inexpensive pieces that can be made with simple craft materials. In the deamatic play area, empty food containers that depict cultural differences are simplistic and often free, if you have families bring them in. Simple foam picture frames with different magazine cutouts work too!

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    J. Malone-Barnes
    Practicum Coordinator
    Children and Families Program
    Henry Ford College
    Dearborn, MI
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  • 9.  RE: Selecting materials for dramatic play that support culturally rich play

    Posted 22 days ago
    We are getting rid of our plastic food this year due to stereotypes and limitedness of use, and replacing it with loose parts-- felt, wool balls, wooden chips. We're also putting all the costumes in storage and replacing them with a variety of fabric pieces. Will observe how it's used...

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    Encian Pastel
    Richmond CA
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  • 10.  RE: Selecting materials for dramatic play that support culturally rich play

    Posted 21 days ago
    So many great suggestions and points made, and I personally like Encian Pastel's approach; we asked an avid sewer (mom of one of our teachers) to make us a collection of all-purpose capes and tunics to which we added large squares of cloth with great colors. Children arranged their own outfits. In retrospect we could have used cloth from different cultures to add another element. However, we have a very fine needle to thread in ECE: finding authenticity and avoiding stereotypes. I recommend looking at NAEYC's Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves. Chapter 5 came to mind: Learning About Culture, Language, and Fairness. We really want to sidestep the superficial ways of looking at culture as in: costumes and holidays, foods and artifacts. When we create a culturally welcoming environment and students bring their cultural artifacts as they interpret them, into our rooms, then we have a chance to create authentic interchanges not based on stereotypes. (And of course you know that when children bring things to represent their home cultures it is going to be a very interesting experience - and will probably challenge our adult assumptions.)

    Lastly, I have an issue with ERS assessment standards around this issue. ITERS/ECERS checklists, in my view, support the industry that provides us with stereotypical costumes and play foods, and those of us who go the "give them cloth and materials to make their own costumes" might have to take a hit in that area if we are required to work with those standards.


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    Karen Lefkovitz
    Independent Consultant
    Philadelphia PA
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  • 11.  RE: Selecting materials for dramatic play that support culturally rich play

    Posted 21 days ago
    Oh, yes, Karen Lefkovitz. My favorite is the set of "costumes" that includes a doctor coat and one of those head reflectors that haven't been seen since Dr. Kildare was on TV in the 1950s. If that's not a red flag for making money with no regard for what children need, I don't know what is.

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    Karen Nemeth
    Author/consultant/keynotes
    Language Castle LLC
    Allentown PA
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  • 12.  RE: Selecting materials for dramatic play that support culturally rich play

    Posted 21 days ago
    I really appreciate all of these responses. They echo my concerns and thoughts - and will be very useful in my work as a Quality Improvement Specialist. I particularly share the concerns about ITERS/ECERS. For the most part, I find that ITERS/ECERS reports do help programs to focus on appropriate ways to make improvements, but not in this area!

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    Mira Berkley
    Quality Improvement Specialist
    QUALITYstarsNY
    Fredonia NY
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  • 13.  RE: Selecting materials for dramatic play that support culturally rich play

    Posted 19 days ago
    Dramatic play is so important for socialization skills.  Getting along,having to share, taking turns. I put clothes from the thrift  store. Vests or a cap [which can be a problem]]. Theme stuff as well they love. Chinese for Chinese New Year. Japanese. Egyptian outfits I made.  It is hard to find boy stuff which hm is so important.  Cowboy ,cowgirl western stuff. Princess.  Ballet.  I leave it in the dramatic play area for a couple of weeks depending on the theme..  Rotating outfits makes it more exciting a d seasonal as well. I have always done this and didn't think about culturally rich. It was just natural. I teach 4 and 5 year olds.   Susan





  • 14.  RE: Selecting materials for dramatic play that support culturally rich play

    Posted 20 days ago
    Sent from my iPhone