The Value of Social Imaginary Play
Social imaginary play—also called dramatic play, socio-dramatic play, make-believe play, and
pretend play—involves two or more children imagining they are in a particular place, taking
on roles related to the place, and acting out what they imagine happens there. It seems that the
more we learn about the importance of play for children’s healthy development, particularly
social imaginary play, the more it is being eliminated from classrooms. This is especially true
for kindergarten classrooms. There are few activities as complex as pretend play for young
children. They use their imaginations, interact socially with several children at once, use lan-
guage to direct the course of the play, negotiate roles and scenarios, take on the persona of
a different person, create a story line, use props in unique ways, move physically, and more.

Based on Vygotsky’s theories, Elena Bodrova, Carrie Germeroth, and Deborah Leong (2013)
have made a compelling argument that pretend play is one of the most effective ways to help
children develop self-regulation, among other benefits.

Cultural Responsiveness
The United States is a more diverse country than it was when the last edition of this book was
published, and it will be even more so in the future. Immigrant families, most of whom do not
speak English at home, now live in every state and in nearly every county of every state, urban
and rural. We have come far from the days when we thought that the best response to diversity
was to see everyone as equal and treat all children just the same. Rather than ignoring cul-
tural differences, we now strive to understand, appreciate, and celebrate the diverse cultures
in our classrooms. We try to be responsive to the many different culture-based beliefs, values,
and practices of children and their families, as well as to the significant differences among
individual families within every culture. Although it’s not possible to include a discussion of
cultural differences for every issue and for every culture, there are “Cultural Awareness Alert”
boxes throughout the book with examples of ways that the beliefs and behaviors of children
and families from non-mainstream U.S. cultures and ethnic groups tend to differ from the
norms and expectations in most of our classrooms. Even if there is not much cultural, racial,
or ethnic diversity among your group of children, it is helpful to understand that many beliefs
and practices we think of as “normal” and applicable to every child and family actually vary a
great deal across cultures. This is particularly true about child-rearing practices. In addition,
it is important for a homogeneous group of children to experience and appreciate diversity.

Intentional Teaching
Teaching with intention involves thoughtful planning based on children’s needs and interests;
using teaching and learning strategies that are responsive to the learning styles, abilities, and
cultures of all children in the class; making adjustments during planned activities to be more
responsive and effective; recognizing and using “teachable moments”; and critically reflecting
on one’s own teaching. In a nutshell, it’s knowing what you are doing, why you are doing it, and
how you might do it better! It’s not so much a new concept as one that has been more recently
recognized as a key attribute of quality teaching. (See Epstein 2007 and Barnes 2012 in the
references on p. 309 for more information about intentional teaching.)
Introduction • 7

Globalization: New (and Continuing) Inspirations from
Europe and Oceania
It should be no surprise that given our increasingly shrinking world (our global village), in-
fluences from other countries that have better systems of early childhood education and care
would reach the United States. The Reggio Emilia approach, while well known and highly
touted here since 1987 when the first exhibit appeared in the United States, has continued to
strongly influence practices in early childhood programs. These influences include the use of
“loose parts” and items from nature, spending time outside, classroom environments that are
well organized and aesthetically beautiful, inquiry- and project-based learning, strong con-
nections between early childhood programs and communities, and the thoughtful documen-
tation of children’s work.

The Netherlands has led the way in the development of a comprehensive, sensible, and
effective relationship/sexuality education program, called “Spring Fever,” that starts with
four-year-olds and extends through high school (Melker 2015). Norway and other Nordic
countries have given us Outdoor Preschools, also called Forest Kindergartens. Culturally re-
sponsive curriculum done deeply and with beauty and compassion comes to us from New
Zealand and is called “Te Whāriki” (New Zealand Ministry of Education 1996). In Australia,
intentional teaching and environmentally sustainable practices for early childhood programs
are fully embraced and widely practiced, providing us with many creative ideas and concrete
examples of how to teach with intention and engage children in caring for our planet. These are
just a few examples of innovative and effective education programs from outside of the United
States that can inspire us to do our best for our children.

New Issues, Trends, and Challenges
Preschool Expulsions and Suspensions
In 2005, Researcher Walter Gilliam found that children in preschool programs are expelled
at three times the rate of children in K–12 schools. More recent research from the U.S. De-
partment of Education Office for Civil Rights (2014) found that “Black children make up 18%
of preschool enrollment, but 48% of preschool children suspended more than once, and boys
receive more than three out of four out-of-school preschool suspensions” (p. 3). There is wide-
spread agreement that the problem results from a combination of more children with more
intense emotional needs, teachers who have not received adequate training to meet the needs
of boys, black children, and children with problematic behaviors, and a lack of access to mental
health specialists with expertise in young children. While this book is no substitute for a men-
tal health expert or for training sessions, it will help you respond more effectively to the more
serious problem behaviors (the ones that may lead to a child being expelled). It can be a good
complementary resource to go with training and help from a specialist. There are children
whose emotional needs are so great and behaviors so violent that they really do need to be in a
different type of program where trained mental health specialists can provide intensive, indi-
vidualized help to the child and the family, at least for a time. In these rare cases, the children
need to be referred and helped, not expelled.

8 • Introduction