Article extract: The Meaning of Play, by Mrs P M Hostler
‘LET’S play at schools. No, mothers and fathers!’ The little group wrangles for a while as to who shall be teacher and who the baby, and then settles down to play, arguing, quarrelling, changing the game in midstream or starting afresh.
Many a parent watching these games which never seem to lose their popularity, must wonder why children come back to them again and again. It’s a tiresome world they portray in their make-believe – a world where the baby is always howling and the mother fussing. And if school is the scene, the pupils are always late, rude and don’t know their lessons. Yet they never fail to get the better of the teacher, who is as vindictive as she is stupid.
Why do they want to play in this way, we ask ourselves? Where do they get their ideas from? We never behave, surely, as does this interfering, dictatorial mother, and surely things can’t go on in school like that? We try to set them an example of restraint and patience, and the discipline at school is reasonable we know. It must be the Jones children who are responsible!
In all types of homes and from all sorts of backgrounds, these games follow a similar pattern – a world where all the children are masters and the adults at their wit’s end. … they are full of aggressive behaviour and conflict one against the other. When we see how eternally such games recur, it seems probable that children have always played in this way, and in every country.
WHY should it be so? The answer is that children are finding release for emotions which most of the time cannot, or must not, find expression.
We adults are not nearly self-conscious enough of the way we must appear to children. Do we ever seriously remember that, to the toddler, the world must appear peopled with giants – giants who, for no apparent reason, suddenly sweep him off his feet? And though sometimes the handling may be loving, and he may be covered with kisses, or tossed up to the ceiling, at others he may be snatched up just when he is interested in some activity of his own. … He must feel himself utterly powerless and there must be times when adults are terrifying to him.
Even when he has grown, they are still giants to him in the power they hold. They have the right to say Yea or Nay, to give or withhold. It is natural that, however loving and reasonable we are, a growing child should feel resentment against us long before he can express it. We ourselves find it difficult to put our feelings into words often enough, but when we have done so and “had it out” with someone, we immediately feel better. A child whose vocabulary is strictly limited has no such means of saying what he feels, and when adolescence comes and he feels able to do so, ‘I’m sick of being ordered about! I’m not a baby!’, many parents are genuinely hurt and astonished.
Hot Cross Buns
¾ lb. flour
Good pinch of salt
1 teaspoon mixed spice
2 oz. lard and margarine (mixed)
1½-2 oz. sugar
3 oz. currants
½ oz. chopped candied peel (optional)
1 ½ gills* milk
½ oz. yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar*1 gill= ¼ pint
Sift the flour, salt and spice together. Make a well in the centre, and place the bowl in a warm place. Cream the yeast with the one teaspoon of sugar until quite liquid. Warm the milk and margarine together and add to the whisked egg (the temperature should be approximately blood heat). Pour on to the yeast, and add to the flour but do not mix. Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place until the yeast begins to bubble. Add the sugar and fruit and beat all together for several minutes. Cover with the cloth, and leave the bowl in a warm place until the dough has doubled its bulk. Turn out onto a floured board, knead lightly, then cut into 16 even sized portions. Form into buns, and cut a cross on each one. Place on a greased and floured baking tin and put in a warm place to ‘prove’ for ten to 15 minutes. Quickly brush over with a solution of sugar and water. Bake in a hot oven (Regulo 7) for the first seven or eight minutes, then reduce the heat slightly and cook until an even golden brown colour, 15 to 20 minutes in all.
Happy Mother writes: I should like to write a few words in defence of the BBC’s choice of time for the ‘Under fives’ programme. I think after lunch a most suitable time for this programme … but not between five and six.
Most young children are at home with their mothers at 1.45pm, whereas at 5pm they may be visiting friends. The other disadvantages to ‘their’ programme being between 5 and 6pm are, firstly, that Children’s Hour is in progress for the older children and, secondly, that many mothers will be busy preparing an evening meal for their husbands.