Davey’s growing participation in the cultural activities offered by the nur- sery environment is clear. The garden contains many affordances which Davey is identifying for himself, through observation of other children or simple experiment: there are carts which can be pushed and used for trans- porting (or shared, or used for rides, as he was to discover); brushes which can be used for workmanlike ‘painting’ of surfaces (and small collections of rain-water which may be used in place of paint); structures for climbing and sliding which require careful negotiation and improvisation if they are combined with other purposes, such as ‘painting’; and children whose attention can be engaged through tentative interaction. These resources, which are typical of a traditional ‘free-flow’ nursery environment, obvi- ously make sense to Davey, and to his dad, who reflected that
He teaches himself a lot of things I think because he’s quite inquisitive and he tries to find out how things work and if he can’t he’ll go and ask someone … like the red tractor in the play- ground, I got told yesterday that he plays with that every day and at first he wasn’t too sure how it went up and down but now he’s doing it on his own!
Davey’s play, in an observation like this, could be described as work-like and potentially gendered. His mode of exploration is an approved cul- tural activity in the nursery environment, and is actively promoted by his key worker:
I know that Davey likes his outdoor space and he doesn’t have it at home, he doesn’t have access to it … so the first thing I do is go outside, let them be where they want to be – and he’s got the things he likes – the sand, the trucks, the tractor.
At the same time, Davey is showing his awareness of the wishes of other children who are sharing his space and resources. For 2-year-olds in this urban setting, increasing appropriation of the cultural tools of the nursery (which are intended to support their developing physical, social and com- municative competencies) addresses goals which are shared by everyone.
Larissa: regulating peer relationships
In the kindergarten section of the same children’s centre, 3-year-old Larissa was another subject of the transitions study. Larissa and her
46 ENGAGING PLAY
MHBK015-c03_p39-53.qxd 4/13/10 7:28 AM Page 46 Aptara
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LEARNING TO PLAY, OR PLAYING TO LEARN? 47
friends were also regularly found playing out of doors, and the goals of their ‘cultural activity’ were those of their peer culture. This observation was made in Larissa’s fourth week in kindergarten.