Thursday, September 4, 2014

Characters for the Preschoolers

Many people ask why we have a strict no character policy at school, or why I don't allow my own children to have items with characters on them. The reason is found in child development.

Dr. Montessori found four planes of development:

The first plane is the Absorbent Mind, which occurs from birth through age 6. This is when children are taking in everything through their senses and integrating that into their knowledge-base.

The second plane is the Reasoning Mind, and this occurs ages 6 through 12. Children are able to start sorting through concepts and ideas using logic, they begin seeking out knowledge.

The third plane is the Social Mind, and this occurs ages 12 through 18. Children are developing moral and social values and working on creating the adult they will be.

The fourth plane is the Spiritual Mind, and this occurs ages 18-24. Young adults are making conscious choices about morality and spirituality, finding their place in the world.

Because the preschool aged child is not yet a reasoning child, their environment should be reality based. This lays the foundation for the second plane of development.

Our jobs as educators are almost as much about educating the parents as it is the child. With so much marketing and commercialization around, people just think it is "normal" to do characters. And I think people think, "Well, I had characters and I turned out just fine."

What people forget is the we played Barbies, GI Joe, Transformers, etc when we were in the SECOND plane of development, not the first (I'm sure most people actually have very few memories of the first plane).

Characters in the first plane are not developmentally appropriate, as children cannot decipher fantasy from reality. In fact, my 7 year old sometimes still has trouble with it. I know anecdotally that I see a huge difference in the work a child does in the classroom and behaviorally between children that do characters at home and those that do not.

Hopefully policies at school can translate into how people are parenting at home, or least have people stop to think about it, and make a conscious decision, rather than just mindlessly doing what the marketers want us to.

The hardest part is often times our families have difficulty even finding non character items. Thank goodness for the new Skip Hop backpack/lunchbox line!‎ And bonus, they are small enough that preschoolers can carry with ease.

If you want to join the fight against marketing to children, please visit Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood at