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Cultural Influences on Children's Play

An Interview with Dr. Patricia Ramsey
Dr. Patricia Ramsey explains how children's play preferences reflect the values of the cultures they are raised in. This video was created as part of the Guiding Young Children's Behavior series, an interactive training curriculum that provides current and future early childhood professionals with tools and strategies for guiding preschool children's behavior in positive ways. The curriculum was originally made possible through the generous support of the U.S. Department of Defense for Project Navigate, a project to support the professional development of early childhood professionals in U.S. Navy child care centers.

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  • Transcript for Cultural Influences on Children's Play

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    Patricia Ramsey, Expert: Children’s play preferences reflect the values that they’re being raised in. Children from a more individualistic culture may prefer to spend time alone. They may prefer to spend time doing competitive activities. They may be more caught up in individual achievement and smaller groups, maybe more exclusionary activities, whereas children raised in a more collective, collaborative culture may emphasize inclusion and play in larger groups and be less concerned with a competitive aspect.

    Another way that cultures differ is the level of expressiveness that’s allowed, that’s encouraged. That for some children, some cultures, that restraint is very important and learning to mask your feelings, is a priority. Other cultures it’s to be very expressive, what may appear to be so rambunctious or aggressive in one classroom may not be.

    Another way that play would vary is the roles that children play. If your child is being raised in a rural area, they may be enacting farming roles, taking care animals, driving tractors. In a city, children being raised in a city, may be driving taxis and buses and enacting those kinds of roles. Very often in suburban areas you see lots of children being the soccer moms, they’ll be driving cars and playing on their cell phones at the same time.

    You can also bring in cultural differences with books and puzzles and songs, and learning words in different languages. If you have a book that represents another culture, don’t just read the story and drop it. You can build around it with doing stuff in the pretend area, you can do art projects along with it, you can do songs with it.

    You should be sure to understand the cultures and not just the surfaces, as we mentioned before, not just the artifacts, not just the cooking, not just the clothing. But really try to understand the values of the culture because that underlies a lot of the things you might be bringing into the classroom.


    ©2007 Center for Early Childhood Education at Eastern Connecticut State University.
    May be reprinted for educational purposes.

  • Author: Dr. Jeffrey Trawick-Smith
    Production Consultant: Dr. Denise Matthews
    Video Production: RISE Learning Solutions, Jeffery Arias, Denise Matthews
    Student Production Assistant: Kerin Jaros-Dressler
    Content Expert: Dr. Patricia Ramsey