When a child arrives at school with a Paw Patrol backpack or a Frozen-themed Tupperware, it is tricky to understand where the harm is. After all, children enjoy cartoons and characters very much, relating to some personalities and plot twists. While there is certainly a place for imagination, music and creative play, we still discourage children from wearing characters to school.
The main reason is that characters, especially those from top-grossing films or widely commercialized projects, are quite distracting to children. If someone walks into the classroom with a sweatshirt featuring a well-known character, his friends are sure to comment, which interrupts everyone’s concentration.
Another explanation is that reality is enough to digest. Consider how rich the world around us is, and the fact that children are still absorbing through their senses and orienting themselves, categorizing and cataloguing what they see and feel.
There is plenty in nature that is riveting, such as the monkey-tailed fern and the clear-winged butterfly, and these creatures truly exist! For very young children, a creek of rushing, cool blue water can be transcendent to observe. Honey bees are the same. Children can spend their time taking in what is real, and that is a crucially important part of their work on earth at this age.
Is it fine to wear actual animals on one’s clothing? Absolutely! A dress with an embroidered duck or a pair of socks with a bear print would echo nature and reality, for example.
How else do we offer children ages 0-6 reality? The books we show them echo what does occur. For example, we choose books in which people drive cars and deer run through the forest, and we do not read books in which deer are driving cars while dressed in tuxedos.
Later on in the Primary years, we can read some fairy tales and related literature as a means to expand their imaginations and encourage creativity, and because some of the literature is marvelous for enrichment of vocabulary, but that is once the children have already built a foundation. At that time, they can tell better what is real and what is not, much better than two- and three-year-olds can.
Through multimedia hands-on art, we also promote their creativity. This way, we offer them a select amount of geometric forms and colors, “keys to the universe” of their sensorial knowledge, chances for their artistic flair to take root.
What can you do if your child wants to wear characters to school? Save it for holidays or the weekend. Suggest two options for a school day, such as a red and white striped jacket or a black jacket with a swan image. This way the child has freedom within limits and builds his or her will gradually using choices with which you are comfortable.
The bottom line is that our world is fantastic enough, and we are privileged to explore it with the children. Now is the time to connect them with the environment in a way that promotes curiosity about the natural world and a zest for fun.