We're in the midst of cleaning and straightening our house to get ready for Thanksgiving. In my flurry of pile decimation and dust attack, I found this book: Who's Calling the Shots: How to Respond Effectively to Children's Fascination with War Play and War Toys by Nancy Carlsson-Paige and Diane Levin.
I read this book more than ten years ago and found it incredibly helpful in thinking about how to support my students in their dramatic play. I think I'm going to stick it on my bedside table and re-read to see what jumps out at me during this read.
The first time I read it, the biggest thing that stuck with me was giving the children the chance to engage in the war play they were going to do anyway. I'd always thought it made sense to tell the children not to use play guns and always stopped any bomb or gun talk when I heard it. What I remember from this book was the fact that it advocated being there when children were beginning to engage in talk of guns and bombs and shooting in order to ask questions and direct the conversation, ie:
student: Boom! Bang! The bomb just fell on the building!
teacher: Oh no!
teacher: What about the people inside? Where is the hospital?
This was from a conversation that I actually had with a kindergartner years ago. We ended up using blocks to build a hospital and used a Matchbox car for an ambulance and we made sure to bring the people to the hospital for care. The point I remember from the book, was that often children need someone else to help make the consequences of various things explicit, because they don't always make the connections themselves.
I feel sort of like a fraud, recommending this book that I haven't read in ten years or so, but it was such a helpful guide for me, and I'd hate for it to get lost among all of the books being published now.
Also, I wanted to share this recipe for Play-doh that I found in this book. It remains, hands down, the best play doh I've made in all my years of teaching. It takes a little longer, because you have to cook it, but it is well worth it.
3 c flour
1 1/2 c salt
2 T cream of tartar
3 T oil
3 c water
(a few drops of food coloring or 1 t tempera paint -- mix this into the water if you want to color the play doh)
Mix ingredients in a large pot and stir over low heat until the mixture starts to thicken like mashed potatoes. Then, remove from the heat, scrape into a bowl or another pan and let it cool. When it's cool enough to touch, knead for a while with your hands. It keeps for a long time in a sealed container.