We always celebrate Carnevale in our Italian kindergarten program. Carnevale is an Italian cultural tradition with a child focus so it is a natural fit for us. We take some inspiration from the Venetian Carnevale. Our celebrations include things like masks, constumes, and traditional pre-Lenten foods. We also continue the Australian kindergarten tradition of making pancakes in class.
One of the things we do is invite children to wear dress ups to kinder. This year, with Easter falling quite late, we have started dressing up the week before Ash Wednesday, and the dress ups have the been the focus of our week.
Some children stuck to the same favourite costume, while others chose a different one each day. There were no restrictions on what they could wear – a Carnevale tutto vale.
It is convenient that Shrove Tuesday falls so early in the year, as this is a time when the curriculum focus is often on Identity. We are getting to know the children and settling them into a sense of belonging in the group.
Wearing a costume allows children to explore and play with identity. They can enter into fantasy play in that role. They can adopt different ways of behaving. They can explore taking on aspects of personality.
This week, we particularly noticed how Paw Patrol costumes created opportunities for different combinations of children to connect with each other. The costumes scaffolded social play by giving children a known role to perform, pre-established by their shared knowledge of the Paw Patrol world.
We also noticed how some children who have been a little socially reticent seemed released by the costume. They appeared more relaxed, and leapt into social play with an ease we had not seen before. It was as if the freedom to pretend to be someone else gave them an opportunity to perform an identity with more social confidence.