Monday, February 06, 2012

A Matchbox World Where Anything Goes

One of the great prejudices about a play-based curriculum, the great insult that is hurled like those latter day Marie Antoinettes shouting "get a job" at Occupy Wall Street protesters, is that what we do is simply "anything goes."

"Anything" never "goes" in a community, but getting there, to a place in which we live together with mutual respect, doesn't require the kind of hierarchic authoritarianism critics too often assume is necessary in order to control young children. Respect is not something one commands from children, but rather something one earns by first respecting them.

For the past several years, I've been risking my boyhood Matchbox car collection on the alter of my faith in the ability of children to behave respectfully, even when, it seems, anything goes. I tell them the truth, that these are special toys, that I don't want the many small parts to get lost, that I don't want them to crash the cars together. I rarely put caveats on other toys, but have no qualms about doing so with these. I'm not commanding them: merely telling the truth about my feelings and expecting them to respect them.

You should see with what reverence the boys -- and it's mostly boys -- play with my cars, handling them carefully as they drive on the table where I expect them to remain, all the while making soft motor noises. It's not the usual wild, on your feet, zoom-zoom kind of play that our contemporary Hot Wheels evoke, but rather a nose-to-the-table kind of play that stimulates conversation, comparisons, and doll-house style dramatics. This isn't the result of being told what to do, but rather from being trusted to respect my feelings.

It's not a particularly large car collection by today's standards, but it's large enough. Whenever they come out, they draw a crowd, many of those boys spending an hour or more lost in the Matchbox world where I once lived, but can now only visit with them as my guide.

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Life with Kaishon said...

I am glad they revere them as you once did : )

sixcranberries said...

It's nice of you to share a part of yourself to them=)

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