When the Teacher Comes to Play: Influencing Children's Role-Playing as a Social Practice in Kindergarten

Mark Weißhaupt, Elke Hildebrandt, Tobias Leonhard


In this article, we address the social practice of children's role-playing in the context of the (German-Swiss) kindergarten, using qualitative reconstructive methodology. Role playing is a common form of interaction among children. When done in kindergarten or school, role-playing is often facilitated by teachers, with the goal of promoting different skills, i.e., social or language skills. We present the state of research on role-playing of young children, focusing on its internal logic and its relation to pedagogical guidance. On the basis of a transcript of a play sequence in kindergarten, interactions between children as well as the teachers' actions, are reconstructed, using an objective hermeneutics approach. This led to two central findings: Children's role-playing shows a structural logic of loosely coupled connections of actions and communications. Its dynamics are inherently determined and delimited from its surroundings, either by play-thematically appropriate reinterpretations of the various actions and communication external to the play reality, including guidance by the teacher, or by actively ignoring all of these and treating them as background noise. For this performative delineation, dramatic elements are used by children; for example, screenwriter or choir. The role of the teacher can be problematic for the fragile involvement of children in role-playing, especially if the teacher lacks understanding of the play reality at hand.


play accompaniment; social performance; interactionism; interaction system; socialization; sociology of childhood; preschool pedagogy; objective hermeneutics

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-20.2.3055

Copyright (c) 2019 Mark Weißhaupt, Elke Hildebrandt, Tobias Leonhard

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