12 Pages

The Play House and the Sand Tray

The title of this article refers to artifacts that have become associated with early childhood education. Drawing on my more extensive research, I suggest relationships between the different theories of the child mind and moral being upon which curricula, pedagogies and the institutions of early childhood education have been founded. Through historical and ethnographic research I have endeavoured to trace some of the conflicts that have centred on the merits of learning through play as opposed to learning through work. The presence of particular artifacts does not signify that either learning through play or learning through work is dominant or in contradiction. More significant are the educational purposes to which the objects have been designed to contribute. I have found that a long prevalent tension amongst early childhood educators is that of whether to place priority on fostering children's independence of thought and reflective action or to press towards inducting the children into conformity with adult social conduct and literacy. Historically, around versions of this tension have formed alliances, institutions and curriculum.