Why is it when children get to free play with loose parts, they challenge the sweet equilibrium we all seek (we don’t really seek it, otherwise we wouldn’t be fabulous motivated educators 😊 ) . They build things too high, they get too messy, and they form exclusive clusters. Disequilibrium ensues and now we have to act. (Damn you Piaget with your Disequilibrium motivates learning idea). One of these equilibrium shattering activities is the “do not enter sign’ Often when children are building cubbies, the ‘do not enter’ signs often appear. As an educator, we hope all children adopt an inclusive philosophy in life. I have seen a lot of educators say, “that’s not very nice, take it down”. Or “everybody should be allowed in if they want”. I know we must encourage inclusivity and address relational aggression but is introducing an authoritarian ban of ‘do not enter’ signs the answer.
Our Vygotsky says children use play to test out adult ideas in a safe play world. ‘Do not enter’ signs are on our roads, hospitals, restaurants and even most schools and kindies. If they are surrounded by ‘do not enter’ signs then it only makes sense they will end up in their play.
Every time I see a ‘do not enter’ sign in children’s play, I first think what a fantastic text user this child is. Many signs shine when it comes to creativity. A recent one read; Do not enter you will get big big consocwenses torkin to Alfie and Ethan or Matty. That communicated the gravity of the act of trespass. Sometimes the sign isn’t for exclusion purposes. I was at a VAC care site and the older kids put a ‘do not enter’ sign on the construction. When asked why, they said it’s to keep everyone away from the venomous snake enclosure.
Most times the kids just want to limit the numbers of people that can get inside. A bit like a nightclub or Australia. They have a logical reason. If everyone was welcome, then their cubby would explode from the inside out and the blood and carnage would be on the hands of the educator who facilitated this policy.
Cathy Nutbrown & Peter Clough (2009) wrote a paper that addressed inclusivity and citizenship and felt silencing the child’s voice (banning signs), is counterproductive when addressing exclusion, relational aggression, racism etc. Listening to children and knowing how they feel opens discussion. They feel the children’s voice is central to any understanding of their perspectives and this understanding will inform pedagogy and curriculum choice.
With all this being said, most sites let these signs exist. Often it comes up for discussion, and the child’s voice is valued. Just as well, because I would hate for a kid to find out I’m a hypocrite with my lock on the front door and nobody else is allowed to ride my motorbike rule.