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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET The Theories as a Framework to Support Children    17 Making Erikson’s Theory Visible in Play Lev Vygotsky (1896–1934) In Plain View: Vygotsky’s Theory Defined V ygotsky was an educational psychologist who introduced socio- cultural theory. This theory asserts that children’s cognitive, lan- guage, and social development is enhanced by their social-cultural environment. Vygotsky believes everyone has a culture and what and how children learn is determined by their culture. He calls language and sym- bols “cultural tools” that help people succeed at particular goals just as physical tools do. Tools such as language, signs, symbols, numbers, and pictures serve the purpose of supporting children in expressing their feel- ings, needs, and ideas as they navigate their social environment. In various cultures, specific words are used in speech and particular symbols are used for written print and numbers—what is the same across cultures is that they all use these cultural tools (words and symbols) to accomplish tasks. Central to Vygotsky’s theory are the beliefs that children construct knowl- edge, that language plays a central role in children’s development, and that development cannot be separated from its social, cultural context. Children construct knowledge through active engagement and social interaction using their cultural tools. This means that children need COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Vygotsky As the children discover how the wind affects different items in the envi- ronment, they demonstrate autonomy of thinking. They have developed enough trust in themselves and others that they are free to explore multiple possibilities without the fear of criticism. They demonstrate initiative as they find new objects to both generate wind and to be moved by the wind. As they take the initiative in their play, the children are asserting power and control over the environment that surrounds them. With the support of Crystal and the other teachers, the children are planning experiences that allow them to test their ideas and thinking as they blow on a variety of objects using straws. While they play, they are able to test the limits of their own hypotheses about how different objects move in the wind. In this way, children begin to feel that their self-initiated efforts lead to a sense of purpose and success. The children in this story are gaining trust, becoming autonomous, and demonstrating initiative as defined by Erikson’s theory.