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Play Supports Character Development and Ethical Behavior
February 25, 2019
I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.
-Rosa Parks

Writing in two companion books, Child Development and Child Development II (both Beginnings Workshop books), both David Elkind and Marjorie Kostelnik discuss how affording children true play experiences can support character development and concepts of ethical behavior.

“Character can be defined as the disposition to make socially responsible choices,” explains Elkind in Child Development II.  “That is to say, we have the choice to be honest or dishonest, truthful or deceitful, compassionate or insensitive…The disposition to make socially responsible choices is not inborn and must be learned. When children have the opportunity to engage in true play, they are learning to consider options and make choices…Children who play their own games learn to take the other child’s point of view. True play thus encourages character building, problem solving, decision making and perspective taking skills.”

Marjorie Kostelnik, in Child Development, discusses the teacher’s role in supporting children’s ethical behavior during play experiences. Here’s one example she gives:

“Several children and their teacher are sitting in the block area discussing how to keep people safe while playing with the materials there. At the children’s direction, the adult prints on large poster paper:

Don’t throw blocks.
Watch out for toes.
Everybody picks up blocks at clean-up time.

The children display these ‘rules’ near the block shelf for everyone to refer to throughout the day.

Asking children to help establish the expectations they will live by is a common early childhood practice. It is also a strategy for modeling ethical behavior in the classroom.”

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