Tapestries of nurturance in children's role play: a case study of children's expressions of nurturing in a preschool classroom

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Hoke, Priscilla Ann

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The purpose of my study was to examine children’s expressions of nurturance in pretend play and how they appear to understand nurturing in peers’ role-play. The study explored the relationship between preschool children’s nurturing expressions and the classroom environment. By observing in a University laboratory a core group of five children, and using field notes, video and audio tapes, interviews of the lead teacher and interns, the children, and selected parents, the data suggest the following. Children play through emotion arousing topics that can include danger and even life threatening events, in order to find ways to express nurturing; nurturance is embedded within an emotional content that includes children’s relationships with one another, their families, and with their fascination with popular culture; and a teacher’s trust in children’s capacity to pretend play, along with a teacher’s hands-off approach, can allow for children to begin to understand nurturing through role play about nurturing as well as about intense topics and subsequent nurturance. The study builds on the view of children as playing about their microcosmic understandings (Erikson, 1985) of the world that can include intense and often graphic topics in their pretend play (Katch, 2001). I propose that children’s capability to express and understand nurturing can be manifested in the context of pretend play that often includes intense and even violent topics. The classroom environment combined with a teacher’s hands-off approach are crucial in fostering nurturing in pretend play.