“Pretend Play” about Krishna versus “Pretend Play” about Peppa Pig: the impact of non devotee association on the lives of devotee children
By Mani Manjari Dasi
The Independent online news reports that this weekend (24th of February) the animated cartoon Peppa Pig has attained 10 years of being broadcast for the entertainment of young children. The Independent mentions that Peppa Pig is being shown in 180 countries and has been translated into 40 languages. One might ask why does the show has so much success among little children. Basically because the episodes use children´s ordinary interests as main topics and show children natural ability to do imaginative play also call “Pretend Play”.
The goal for vaisnava teachers and parents is to present Krishna Consciousness to young children keeping in mind their interest and their natural ability to do “Pretend Play”. This involves providing a vaisnava curriculum that goes hand in hand with children´s interests and providing resources that will allow for young children to do devotional “Pretend Play”.
Play is an essential activity especially during early childhood, it promotes learning and development; it is through play that young children make social interactions with peers. “Pretend Play” enhances children imagination and promotes language and emotional development. It is through play that children share their interests and reveal their mind to one another.
Li, Hestenes and Wang (2016) describe two types of makeovers involved in “Pretend Play”: concrete “Pretend Play” and abstract “Pretend Play”. In concrete “Pretend Play” children use concrete objects to represent something else, for example a rope can be used to represent a river. In abstract “Pretend Play” children use abstract representations to symbolize something in their mind that does not exist and is not present at the moment, for example jumping over can represent jumping over a river.
When devotee children play cooking with Radha and Krishna´s dolls they can use concrete “Pretend Play” to represent pots, plates and cups; and they can use abstract “Pretend Play” to imagine the bhoga that they are offering to the Lords. However, the magic of Krishna Consciousness is that the mind is also a temple (SB 3.28.18) and whatever spiritual action children do for the pleasure of the Lord, though it might not appear in the concrete platform it does happen on the spiritual level. It can be concluded that “Pretend Play” about the Lord, also call devotional “Pretend Play”; either on a concrete level or on an abstract level gives devotee children an opportunity for spiritual advancement.
This reveals the importance of devotee association from an early age, because it is only through devotee association that young children can perform devotional “Pretend Play”. Young children need devotional toys as well as devotional friends to create a situation where they can play to be Krishna, Balaram; or Sita, Ram Lakshman or Hanuman. Young children need “Pretend Play” to understand the world, the intention of others, and their own roll at home, at school or in the temple. Devotee teachers and parents need to provide a devotional context where devotee children can engage in devotional “Pretend Play” and offer devotional service to the Lord.
Bergen (2002) explains that for children “Pretend Play” functions as a resource to understand other´s thinking and beliefs since “Pretend Play” allows for children to participate in and reason about non actual situations. It is our duty as devotee teachers and parents to give the opportunity to devotee children to meet other devotee children either at school or during weekend and perform “Pretend Play” about the Lord.
Lillard, Pinkham and Smith (2011) mention that boundaries between imaginative and real are very thin in early childhood; and children can claim that entities like Santa Clause or the Tooth Fairy are real. The authors explain that children´s responses to scary imaginative situations can indicate that they think imaginative is real; for example young children can get scared when playing monsters; for little children imaginative entities can cross boundaries from imaginative to real.
Nevertheless, this characteristic of young children can be beneficial to speak to them about the Lord and His different forms; since the same rule will apply between concrete and spiritual aspects of Krishna Consciousness. When taken to the temple young children will naturally accept that the Deities as the Lord; or when playing with devotional toys like Radha and Krishna dolls or Goura and Nitai dolls young children will naturally see them as the Lord; and perform devotional service while playing. Such simple acts of devotional play will help devotee children to advance in Krishna Consciousness.
In Little Avanti Santa Clara we offer devotee children a Vaisnava Curriculum based on the pastimes of the Lord but organized according to the children´s interests. A variety of devotional toys are available for children to practice devotional “Pretend Play” and associate with other devotee children.
Srila Prabhupada mentions in the purport of SB.3.25.25 the importance of devotee association. He explains that devotees should give up the association of materialistic persons and seek the association of devotees; he describes that to understand the pastimes of the Lord, to see the Lord as a person with personal activities and to offer devotional service one should have devotee association. Srila Prabhupada states that devotee association means association with the Lord.
It is relevant for devotee teachers and parents to understand that Srila Prabhupada´s instructions are also applicable to children. In order to establish the seed of devotional service in the heart of young children it is relevant for devotee children to associate with other devotee children in a context that promotes Krishna Consciousness.
In parents/teachers conference Vrajalila Devi Dasi (personal communication, January 14, 2019) mentioned about the importance of keeping her daughter in a vaisnava school in the association of other devotee children. She explained that she does not see Krishna Consciousness as something to develop only during adult life. Vrajalila dd stated that children can also awake love for the Lord and become Krishna Consciousness; but, unlike adults, children can´t choose to live in a devotional context or choose an association that will help them in their spiritual path. Vrajalila dd requested the parents to take responsibility in offering their children an education and an association that will help them do devotional service.
Vrajalila Devi Dasi (personal communication, January 14, 2019) described her experience during her holidays in her home town, out of the devotional context of New Vrajamandala Temple, Spain, where she resides. Vrajalila dd said that during her holidays she was able to observe her daughter doing “Pretended Play” with no devotee children. She explained that seeking to fit within the “Pretended Play” of no devotee children her daughter avoided using her devotional toys, like her dolls of Krishna and Balaram, and played games that did not bring her closer to the Lord.
Vrajalila Devi Dasi (personal communication, January 14, 2019) also expressed that for her is a great miracle that her daughter can go to a vaisnava school in a context where she can become Krishna Consciousness. Vrajalila dd explained that she has been living for 15 years in New Vrajamandala Temple; and she was considering moving to England or to Mayapur whenever she and her husband decide to have children. She was not expecting for a vaisnava school to be built in New Vrajamandala and for her daughter to join that school. Vrajalila dd mentioned that she is grateful to the Lord for the opening of Little Avanti Santa Clara in New Vrajamandala.
In Little Avanti Santa Clara we offer the opportunity to young devotee children to meet and make friends with other devotee children and offer devotional service to the Lord. In Little Avanti Santa Clara we seek to awaken in our children devotion for the Deity of the Lord and to help them experience a taste for serving the Deity of the Lord. Children worship daily the classroom Deities who are similar to the Deities of Radha Govinda Candra on the main altar of New Vrajamandala. The children have learned to do acamana and offer a simple arati by offering the articles for worship by taking turns. In Little Avanti Santa Clara we give children the chance to awaken a taste for chanting the Holy Name in congregation in open spaces by participating in weekly Harinamas around the gardens of New Vrajamandala. They are given the opportunity to lead kirtan and use the mridanga as a devotional instrument. In Little Avanti Santa Clara we want our children also to awaken love for mother cow. Children visit twice a month the Goshala of New Vrajamandala and offer services to calves.
In Little Avanti Santa Clara we deliver the British Curriculum and the Vaisnava Curriculum for early years using songs, stories and devotional toys. Our classroom library has a variety of books catering to the particular interest of little children and it also contains different books for children about the pastimes of Lord Krishna, His different forms, His Deities and His devotees.
The Vaisnava Curriculum for early years has been developed by Avanti Schools, and it has been incorporated into our planning and it is being delivered according to the vaisnava celebrations; it holds diverse topics like: the Holy Name and Srila Prabhupada; Lord Krishna and his pastimes; Lord Chaintanya and his pastimes; Lord Rama and His pastimes; the Avatars of the Lord and the Deities of the Lord.
Devotee parents and teachers need to be aware of the impact that non devotee association can have on the religious education and spiritual development of children. Kids will natural seek the association of other children to enrich their play and develop social skills but is only with other devotee children that play about the Lord can be performed. Otherwise, we will see devotee children playing Peppa Pig instead of offering devotional service to the Lord through their play.
If you would like to contact the author and learn more about Little Avanti Santa Clara you can write to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the principal of the school Caitanya Candra Prabhu at email@example.com
With best regards,
Mani Manjari D
Bergen D. (2002) The role of pretend play in children´s cognitive development. Early Childhood Research Practice 4: 1
Li J., Hestenes L. and Wang Y. (2016) Links between preschool children´s social skills and observed pretend play in outdoor childcare environments. Early Childhood Educational Journal 44: 61-86
Lillard A.,Pinkham A. and Smith E. (2011) Pretend play and cognitive developmet. Chapter 11 in The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Childhood Cognitive Developmet. Online book at: https://books.google.es/books?hl=es&lr=&id=fUSEEAh5ACYC&oi=fnd&pg=PA285&dq=pretended+play+and+social+skills&ots=X9iz4rASyh&sig=oF_vH7-uId-grgUUxZq5AHYszMo#v=onepage&q=pretended%20play%20and%20social%20skills&f=false
The Independent at https://www.independent.ie/life/family/learning/how-peppa-pig-took-over-the-world-30309314.html
Srila Prabhupada (2014) Srimad Bhagavatam canto 3, chapter 28, text 18. Published by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International Inc.
Srila Prabhupada (2014) Srimad Bhagavatam canto 3, chapter 25, text 25. Published by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International Inc.
About the author: Mani Manjari DD, is disciple of Bhakti Gauravani Goswami, holds a Bachelor Degree in Special Education from Boston University; Master Degree in Early Years Education from the University of Sheffield; and a Post Graduate Certificate in Education from the University of Nottingham; she serves as teacher/coordinator in Little Avanti Santa Clara; and pujari of Radha Govinda Candra in New Vrajamandala Temple in Spain