Three girls, ages four and five years old, are washing the body of a large model of a racecar. The wheels have not yet been placed under the body. The pretense comes more from the fact that the car is not really dirty. But the washing is real, with wet sponges, brushes, and towels used to dry after wiping the body with a wet sponge. The children show us that washing requires water, pressure, covering the whole surface, drying with a towel, and even getting to enclosed spaces with a tool. There is also talk of “the lady” who gave them the wheels, and who is identified with the car. The industry we see in the diligence of these girls may be motivated by their sense of service to “the lady.”
Note that there is a surplus of wheels, and at times the girls do not know quite what to do with them, putting them in the hanger on the wall only to take them down again. They agree to wash them before adding them to the car. Again, the pretense comes from their invention that these items are dirty. One wonders why wheels need to be cleaned, but then that is their goal as a group. Zoey, Lulu and Kira are having fun immersing themselves as a team in this pretense. It is interesting how each girl, on her own, finds something to do that falls within the general theme of improving this car – cleaning, adding wheels, putting “power” into the wheels. One wonders if adding "power" is adding pretend gasoline. The caps to most gas tanks are usually just above the wheel. If so, we can surmise that at least one of the girls knows the function of gasoline. Or maybe she is pretending to fill the tire with air so that it will go.
The large scale of the props helps. And the group effort offers many opportunities for each child to call out suggestions about what to do next. Listen for the prelude to these suggestions in the phrase, “Hey guys.” In most cases these instruction are more an announcement about what the speaker is about to do, but such announcements maintain the core identity of what they are doing as a group. We can learn a great deal about the dynamics of effective play by watching videos such as this one.
The combination of materials, grouping, and environment keeps the play sustained for a long period of time. The teacher videographer joins the girls halfway through their play and they work, uninterrupted, for another six minutes. Not once do they look to the teacher for help, or even to check in.