Title

At Play with Meaning: Toys and Other Favorite Objects in the Everyday Lives of Young Children

Presenter Information

Alice Kibele

Start Time

26-10-2007 11:45 AM

End Time

26-10-2007 1:45 PM

Abstract

This ethnographic study used qualitative methods to explore the meaning of toys and other objects from the perspective of young, typically developing children. It was conducted at the childcare site of a large, university-affiliated medical center in Southern California. The study’s primary unit of analysis was the intersection of child, object, and the social and physical contexts of interaction. Data were collected over six months by methods including participant observation, limited audio recording and extensive video recording in the children’s classroom and large outdoor playground. Research participants included 26 ethnically diverse, four-year-old children enrolled in a single classroom of the childcare center. Five of the children were identified as primary informants. Interviews were completed with selected parents, the center’s director, and two primary classroom teachers. In conjunction with selected literature, data gathered from adults served to triangulate the study’s findings, as the voices and actions of the children themselves remained central throughout interpretation. Data analysis drew heavily on narrative and action theories. This paper presents both broad and fine-grained analyses of the study data. This study’s results suggest that, from the perspective of young children, play with toys and other objects is a seriously important part of all daily routines and occupations. Toy play serves as a key context for actively making meaning of the world and their place in it. For young children not yet fully capable of complex verbal communication and cultural understanding, particular toys achieve meaning out of proportion to the objects themselves, in the context of everyday, social engagement with peers and adults. The meaning of toys is located not in the objects themselves, but as they are activated, or made real by children in sociocultural, physical/material, and temporal contexts. Toys illuminate culturally invested meaning and simultaneously provide the means to imaginatively transform meaning. In social context, toys bridge literal and metaphoric communicative gaps, alternately inviting and buffering participation. They bridge distances between the inner child, the safety of home and family, and the larger world, including daycare. This study confirms the importance of toy play as a necessary, enriching component of early childhood occupational experience.

Comments

Poster

This document is currently not available here.

Share

COinS
 
Oct 26th, 11:45 AM Oct 26th, 1:45 PM

At Play with Meaning: Toys and Other Favorite Objects in the Everyday Lives of Young Children

This ethnographic study used qualitative methods to explore the meaning of toys and other objects from the perspective of young, typically developing children. It was conducted at the childcare site of a large, university-affiliated medical center in Southern California. The study’s primary unit of analysis was the intersection of child, object, and the social and physical contexts of interaction. Data were collected over six months by methods including participant observation, limited audio recording and extensive video recording in the children’s classroom and large outdoor playground. Research participants included 26 ethnically diverse, four-year-old children enrolled in a single classroom of the childcare center. Five of the children were identified as primary informants. Interviews were completed with selected parents, the center’s director, and two primary classroom teachers. In conjunction with selected literature, data gathered from adults served to triangulate the study’s findings, as the voices and actions of the children themselves remained central throughout interpretation. Data analysis drew heavily on narrative and action theories. This paper presents both broad and fine-grained analyses of the study data. This study’s results suggest that, from the perspective of young children, play with toys and other objects is a seriously important part of all daily routines and occupations. Toy play serves as a key context for actively making meaning of the world and their place in it. For young children not yet fully capable of complex verbal communication and cultural understanding, particular toys achieve meaning out of proportion to the objects themselves, in the context of everyday, social engagement with peers and adults. The meaning of toys is located not in the objects themselves, but as they are activated, or made real by children in sociocultural, physical/material, and temporal contexts. Toys illuminate culturally invested meaning and simultaneously provide the means to imaginatively transform meaning. In social context, toys bridge literal and metaphoric communicative gaps, alternately inviting and buffering participation. They bridge distances between the inner child, the safety of home and family, and the larger world, including daycare. This study confirms the importance of toy play as a necessary, enriching component of early childhood occupational experience.