Imagination and play in children's reflections on cultural life: Implications
for cultural continuity and educational practice
Abstract: This paper examines how children apprehend and express their understanding
of the cultural world in which they live. Research among children in Iceland ages
10-15 shows that they are not only aware of certain Icelandic cultural practices,
but that they understand the social or ethical value attached to those practices
sufficiently to mock and play with them. The psychological theory of L. S.
Vygotsky suggests that children simultaneously come to understand and learn to
express ideas by use of the signs and symbols of the adult world. Gregory Bateson's
theory of play and fantasy suggests that play involves metacommunication--the
use of signs that communicate about signs. Combining these two theories we can
see that children can be imaginative and playful in their coming to understand
cultural traditions and their social value. Several examples of Icelandic children's
writings are given to illustrate this developing comprehension and expression.
The implication for bicultural education is that recognition of this developmental
process can help to tap the playful and imaginative powers of children to foster
their growth in understanding and expression in a bicultural environment.