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Tools of the Mind: Supporting Development in Preschool and Kindergarten

This article is written as my interpretation of the Tools of the Mind program.  If you wish to read the words from the horse’s mouth, you should purchase your own copy of “Tools of the Mind: The Vygotskian Approach to Early Childhood Education” by Elena Bodrova and Deborah J. Leong.

Read about Supporting Infant Development.

Supporting Development in Pre-school and Kindergarten through Play.

According to Vygotsky, the leading activity to support development for this age group (commencing from age 3 years until the beginning of primary school) is play.  Play, as defined by Vygotsky, is not the same kind of play most other researchers define it to be.  Vygotsky had a very specific definition for the kind of play children require to support their development during this period.

The kind of play Vygotsky believed was critical to a child’s development was imaginative play.  There were three components to this play:

  1. Creation of an imaginary situation.
  2. Taking on and acting out roles.
  3. Following a set of rules determined by those specific roles.

Such play activities required children to play roles that were above their age and adhere to rules they might not physically be capable of in a real life situation.  Performing these activities assisted them in developing self-control, imagination, internalising their thinking, understanding symbols and relating to emotions – regular developments for children from this age group.

Although such play often requires a child to interact with other children his age, Vygotsky defined the first examples of play as a child pretending to feed his teddy bear.  Following that lead, I’ve tried to recreate individual play at home for Gavin using his soft toys.  So far we’ve created the following scenarios:

  • Aristotle as the teacher teaching a classroom of students played by his soft toys and his baby brother.
  • Aristotle as the doctor examining his patients played by his soft toys and his baby brother.
  • Aristotle as the parent putting his children to bed played by his soft toys.
  • Aristotle the chef preparing a picnic lunch for his soft toys.

If the idea of such play is merely to get Aristotle into a role and functioning within the unspoken rules of that role, then I suppose such individual play should also achieve the same benefits as play with other children.  Ideally, it would be nice to encourage such play between Aristotle and other children – which I hope is taking place at school.  In the meantime, this is the only way I can think of facilitating this development at home.

Supporting the Development in Pre-school and Kindergarten through Non-play Activities

Other “non-play” activities which are beneficial during this period include:

  • Games with rules, e.g. chess, soccer
  • Productive activities, e.g. drama, story telling, block building, art and drawing
  • Pre-academic activities, e.g. reading and math but in a manner that interests the child. For instance, learning math by dividing up ingredients in cooking.
  • Motor activities, e.g. large muscle activities that involve “freezing” or pretending to be statues as this helps a child learn how to sit still during formal education in future.

This has certainly got me thinking about Aristotle’s after school activities again.  Even if I can’t take him out with his brother, I’m sure I could organise a few of these activities for him to participate in at home.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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