Hegemony and creative play
As earlier mentioned, Piaget and Berlyne’s thoughts on toy objects as object stimulus were narrow.
When writing about toys and their importance for children’s play, most authors have turned as a matter of course to Piaget for inspiration and instruction. This is obvious because, as Piaget (1951) points out:
- The very small child’s “sensory motoroperations” in the form of manipulation with objects - within which the child moves from primary via secondary to tertiary circular reactions with things or objects - precede language.
Inspired by this, e.g. Karniol (1989) sets up schematic manipulative and active patterns, putting them in order and puts forward a chronological overview of the stages in a small child’s development. Similarly, Garon (1985) presents her own system of toys and play on the basis of Piaget’s directions.
This is why parents/consumers can read in the toy manufacturers’ instructions for the so-called “activity centres” for infants (the importance of which has absolutely nothing to do with reality) that the child by using the activity centre learns visual and motor skills, experiences visual images and sounds, trains basic and fine motor manipulation skills, optical co-ordination, the ability to track, spatial perception and the cause and effect relationship, to name but a few of the concepts mentioned.
(In the consumer instructions for other/similar diffuse or abstract toys for slightly older children, the concepts are simply explained in more detail and supplemented with technical and educational superlatives and terminology.)
The toy (activity centre) is described in the instructions from its distorted meanings. If Thou look at the toy itself, the story is completely different.
With reference to hegemony in the child’s own creativity, we can also ask what a toy does not allow the person-at-play to do:
What does the sign/symbol (the toy) not do which its status as an icon suggests it ought to be able to do as an index?
By confronting what the child does with the toy with what the child does with the real thing (the index) which the sign/symbol (toy) tries to copy or presume to be, we can begin to form hypotheses about how the child is able to tell us what is play and what is not play - and thus give us linguistic signs/symbols for the child’s creative thoughts and actions.
With these totally diffuse things (of which the baby activity centre and other similar toys are examples) we see the beginnings of:
- A distortion of the child’s creative existence with toys and in particular a distortion of the most significant tenets about the development of the imagination.