"What is a dream asks Jonas." Philosophize with children in kindergarten
1. Awake – dream – ask questions
The Chinese philosopher Dschuang Dse (approx. 370-280 BC) woke up one day and suddenly no longer knew whether he is Dschuang who dreams of being a butterfly or whether he is possibly a butterfly that dreams of To be jujang. Dschuang critically noted that there would certainly be a difference between the two (Dschuang Dse 1957, p. 15).
The French philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650) had similar problems. He sometimes had doubts as to whether he was really sitting by the fireplace and touching paper with his hands, or just dreaming of sitting by the fireplace and reading. Descartes was wondering at the fireplace why someone can be sure that he is awake and not only dreams of being awake?
Such difficult questions arise only from a philosophically trained mind, could now be concluded – after all, Descartes later became the founder of modern European philosophy.
The American philosopher Gareth B. Matthews, who has been philosophizing with younger children for years, has had different experiences. "Dad, how can we be sure that everything is not just a dream?" One day, six-year-old Tim asked him, thinking in the same direction as Descartes. Can we say with certainty when we are awake and when we dream (Matthews 1991, p. 15)?
Tim’s difficult question is not an isolated case. Anyone who lives or works with younger children knows that they can ask holes in the stomach of adults. For example, the Egyptian writer and philosopher Nawal El Saadawi (born 1931) remembers having been a quiet child as long as she could not speak. "However, when I learned to speak, I asked questions to which parents have no answer, such as ‘Where do I come from?’ or ‘Where did my late grandfather go?’. " (El Saadawi 2002, p. 23).
Questions to which adults often do not have an answer are multifaceted. They concern existential problems of human existence such as happiness, identity or the difference between dreams and wakefulness. The philosophical tradition has dealt with these questions for about 2500 years and has always looked for new answers. They form the book inventory of the history of philosophy, so to speak. But this book inventory does not release anyone from looking for answers to their own important life questions. And someone who starts thinking about the difference between dreaming and waking, for example, is philosophizing.
The children’s book "What is a dream asks Jonas" is a real treasure trove to encourage younger children to think about their own and other people’s dreams. The book begins with the situation that El Saadawi has described: children ask their parents holes in the stomach, and they respond with the answer: "I don’t know that."
The main hero of the book, the little mole Jonas, receives the answer from his mother when asked what a dream is, that there are no dreams at all. Jonas is amazed because he knows that he dreamed last night. "But what you see in a dream doesn’t exist", the mother replies (Schirneck 2003, without page number). Disappointed and sad, the little mole digs up to earth. And there he asks various animals the same question, to which they give him various answers that make the concept of dreams clearer: a dream is a book in a foreign language or a violin that plays a beautiful melody or a telescope with which one can look into the soul (see point 2, conceptual work). Satisfied, Jonas returns home in the evening and silently does the day-to-day tasks that his parents impose on him: washing his hands, brushing his teeth, etc. But then in bed, he asks his mother again about the dream. And now it becomes clear that Jonas mother has also continued to think about dreams. She says to her son: "A dream is like a film that arises in yourself and in which you play the main role. Sometimes it’s like a trip that you don’t take by car or plane" (Schirneck 2003, without page number). And when the mother leaves the room, Jonas is already rocking with a yellow sail into a country that belongs only to him.
2. Methods of philosophizing
Jonah’s question: "What is a dream?" leads us to consider how questions from children that concern important life problems such as dreams, happiness or identity can be discussed with the children. For this purpose, the philosophical tradition has developed a canon of basic methods that can also be helpful when philosophizing at home, in kindergarten or at school (cf. Brüning 2001, pp. 19-44). It encompasses conceptual work, arguing, Socratic conversation and thought experiment.
When younger children like the mole ask Jonas: What is a dream? What is time What is a thought – so it is important to take a closer look at the philosophical terms contained in the questions and to find out what the meanings are.
Hubert Schirneck’s children’s book shows us how we can search for important properties that are exemplary for a term, so-called model cases. Because the animals name important properties of a dream. A dream is: a book in a foreign language, a violin melody that sometimes sounds beautiful and sometimes ugly, a telescope to look into your soul, a fly that runs over your forehead or another, unknown country.
These characteristics are food for thought to make a difficult term more comprehensible and at the same time stimulate your own imagination, even to look for model cases. A few years ago, the 5-year-old Kolja from my Hamburg children’s group told me: "Dreams are flashes of thought that can rush through your head during the day." Kolja’s statement referred to another model case: there are different forms of dreams. The night dream is only one form, other forms can e.g. Be daydreams or dream dreams (see also point 3).
To encourage thinking about important philosophical terms, parents can ask the children the following questions while philosophizing:
- What do you mean by the word. dream?
- Do you know another word for the word. dream?
- What belongs to you. dream?
- Imagine that there is the Word. Don’t dream, how would you explain it to other children?
- What is important to you in the dream or dreaming?
These auxiliary questions encourage the children to think about a term themselves. Hubert Schirneck’s children’s book only allows the various animals and the mother to speak. This leaves a lot of room for the children’s own thoughts: if you were Jonas, what would you say? Is a dream like a telescope or more like an unknown country? Or do you think of something else that could be a dream?
The term soul is not explained in the book and therefore offers an additional reason for further conceptual work.
For example, when philosophizing, children believe that people have good and bad dreams, then they should say so, Why they hold this opinion (and no other).
The establishment of opinions is another important methodical method of philosophizing. Every opinion expressed on a certain topic should be justified by (at least) one reason so that the others can also learn the rational context in which it is embedded.
The reasons with which an opinion can be supported are multifaceted. The easiest way of philosophical reasoning is to reference empirical reasons. This includes factual information that can be checked if necessary: I was late for kindergarten today because mom slept through (everyone can check whether this is also true).
Show a greater degree of difficulty with regard to the abstraction ability of preschool children non-empirical reasons on. They are conceptual constructions that cannot be checked against facts. Non-empirical reasons serve to help you understand an action or an opinion "improve", and explain why someone has a certain opinion or attitude: people have good and bad dreams because "sometimes ghosts appear in dreams that scare me and sometimes very dear people like my granny. And so is my girlfriend!" (Nele, 5 years old). The reason, "because sometimes there are ghosts in the dream that scare me and sometimes very nice people like my granny", cannot be verified based on facts, i.e. we don’t see or hear whether Nele is telling the truth. Experiences have to be exchanged about this, which Nele has obviously already done with her friend, because she says: "And it is the same with my girlfriend!"
The scheme of a simple argumentation is:
People have good and bad dreams. because sometimes ghosts appear in dreams and sometimes very nice people like Omi.
When philosophizing in preschool or primary school, it is important that the children usually give a reason for their opinions; however, it is also possible to ask for other reasons.
If the children do not provide reasons on their own, the following questions can be asked:
- Why do you think people. have good and bad dreams? Can you give us an example??
- You told us an example, do you know another?
- Can you justify why it is. good and bad dreams there? Have you ever dreamed badly??
The Socratic conversation
Thinking about dreams can be realized with the help of a book or through drawings, fairy tales and pictures. It is important to get to the bottom of a philosophical question together and to formulate possible answers in a playful way. This type of conversation is called in didactics "Socratic conversation".
The methodology of a Socratic conversation came from the Greek philosopher Socrates (470-399 BC), who philosophized about problems of interest to them on the Athens market square. Socrates left no written work on it. However, his student Plato (427-347 BC) made him the main character of his philosophical dialogues, so that the method of Socrates was traced in the tradition of Plato.
Socrates circled a certain term or topic with his students by asking specific questions. Together they thought about different meanings of the term and supported their opinions with arguments. Socrates was always dominant, i.e. he led his students and, through his way of asking questions, he gave them midwifery for their own ideas. That is why the method of Socrates is also called mäeutik (midwifery art). Socrates’ mother was a midwife, and in the figurative sense of the word he brought the ideas of his students to the world, so to speak.
Today’s Socrates adopted the method of self-thought from historical Socrates. If children in kindergarten or school e.g. philosophize about dreams, then you should develop your own ideas. The starting point is your own experiences, to which every Socratic conversation is based, i.e. not just any philosophical problem is chosen, only one that interests the children and motivates them to think. There can be no philosophizing without the children’s own observations and experiences.
The adults can help the children think together by asking questions and clarifying terms or by encouraging the children to give reasons for their opinions. It is important that every child can present their ideas in an open atmosphere. And since philosophizing is a common search for truth, there should also be a common answer to the question "What is. a dream" be aimed for. If not all children are satisfied with this answer, then they can be put off for the next dream lesson.
"Dreams are flies that run across our foreheads at night when we sleep." This sentence from Hubert Schirneck’s children’s book is a pictorial expression of the fact that dreams come as a surprise and that the nightly images flit through our heads unprepared. It shows that philosophizing also has something to do with creative thinking. Because thoughts or terms and reasons can also be based on original, i.e. Connect unusual and new ways with each other, so that a new train of thought is created that is unique and innovative: In thinking, for example, we can let dream trees grow into the sky.
Since ancient times, creative philosophical thinking has included the method of thought experiment. It enables playful experiments with thoughts and imaginary possibilities that abstract from facts and relate to relationships or objects that do not occur in reality but still exist could and in certain cases also run counter to common sense, such as: What would happen if there were suddenly no more dreams in the world?
Thought experiments stimulate new perspectives on reality by combining circumstances and elements that may not coincide in reality could, should or should meet: I am floating on a flying carpet in the sky of dreams.
Thought experiments always take the form of What if (not) combinations and can be brought into the discussion quickly at the beginning or at the end of a conversation without much preparation: what if we only ever dreamed from morning to night?
A special form of thought experiment are pictorial comparisons or metaphors. They serve to depict various facets of a term or a question in a graphic and vivid way: Dreams are foams, i.e. they pass just as quickly as they came. Dreams are like a telescope with which you can look into your soul. Here a connection is made to the theory of psychoanalysis by the Austrian philosopher and doctor Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), who assumed that dreams also provide insight into a person’s mental processes, i.e. In dreams, people process a variety of life situations. Younger children in particular can be encouraged by suggestions such as. Dreams or thoughts are like. are encouraged to look for their own pictorial comparisons.
In order to specifically promote the philosophical imagination of children, adults can provide the following help:
- Could you imagine. to live without dreams? Why? Why not?
- What would happen if. people suddenly had no more dreams?
- Let’s say it comes. an evil fairy and she just conjures up all beautiful dreams? What would you do?
3. Philosophize about dreams – how can younger children approach the topic?
"Dreams are like clever jugglers: full of ideas, surprising, never completely controllable. Most dreams disappear without a trace in secret archives, to which nobody has the key" (Mankell 2004, pp. 9, 10). Still, one can try to open up dreams by talking about them. The children’s book "What is a dream, asks Jonas" has a key function in this sense and is therefore particularly suitable as a basis for a longer study of the topic "dream".
In addition to the focus of the definition of "Dream and dream" different forms of dreams could also be discussed: night dreams, which the book addresses, and day dreams, dream dreams, fear dreams or future dreams such as: How do you imagine tomorrow’s family or school? Another focus could also be the connection of dream and soul, which the book pointed out by comparing the dream with a telescope that can look into the soul: What happens in your head or in your body when you dream? This question leads to a final topic, which concerns the difference between dreaming and waking, which was mentioned in the introduction: How can you know whether you are dreaming or whether you are awake?
The choice of these four aspects and their weighting within philosophizing about dreams naturally depends on the interests of the children.
Based on the children’s own experiences, I suggest that the topic be explored for a longer period of time "Dream and dream" based on the children’s book four essential phases.
1st phase: In an introductory phase, the children should be made aware of the topic and try out their own dream experiences or bring them into the discussion of the book. For example, sit in the cozy corner and get the task to close your eyes and dream something beautiful.
Option A): After a while they open their eyes again, asking the following questions for a Socratic conversation: Have you just now been dreaming with your eyes open? Why? Why not? What did you dream beautiful? Tell us. Do you like to dream in a cozy corner? Why? Why not?
Variant b): The children open their eyes and paint their dream. After that, the drawings are placed in a circle, and then the children guess each other what they have painted.
2nd phase: After this introduction, the book about the mole Jonas is the focus of the dream lesson, with three reading phases being suggested, which can be modified at the children’s discretion.
The first reading section should be in place "Ask holes in the belly" end up. After that, about Jonas mother’s opinion: "What you see in a dream doesn’t exist", a Socratic conversation will be held: how is that meant? We saw on our drawings what we dreamed of?
The second reading section now takes a little longer. He addresses Jonas’ search for a satisfactory answer to his question, what is a dream, and ends with the list of the individual answers: A dream is like. a book, a violin, a telescope, a fly, another country, which have been wonderfully drawn together.
Then it could be discussed whether the children are satisfied with the answers given by the animals: Can you think of anything else that belongs to a dream? Did the animals forget something important? Which answer did you like best? Justify your opinion.
In the last reading section Jonas returns home and once again asks his mother in bed in the evening what a dream is. And now it becomes clear that the mother has now also considered the problem. A dream is like a movie, she says, "in which you play the main role, or like a journey. And this journey is only made with the heart" (Schirneck 2003, without page number). This should be considered together: What happens when you dream? What role does the head play? What role does the heart play?
At the end of the book, Jonas then swings into his dream with a yellow sail. Here it would be possible for the children to tell or paint their own dream experiences.
3rd phase: After reading the dream book, the various forms of dreams could then be discussed: Jonas dreams at night, you dreamed in the cozy corner. How does a dream at night differ from a dream during the day? Can you actually dream on command? You can stop dreaming if you want to?
The question: "What is your favorite dream??" then leads to the dream dreams that could be thought about with a thought experiment: Imagine that a fairy godmother came to you in the dream and would ask you what you wish for. Paint it on.
Then you could guess again and talk about whether all your dreams can be fulfilled. Again, it is possible to carry out thought experiments: What if your dream never stopped? What if you suddenly had no more dreams?
On the subject "Wish and favorite dream" could the children have one? "dream chain" threading (Brüning 2001, p. 89): A child starts and says e.g. "When I was in cloud cuckoo home, I met cloud children who played with cloud balls and. " The next child then complements this chain by saying who she still meets there and what they are doing there. Then the next one comes. If a child no longer knows anything, the chain breaks.
Then a dream cloud could be painted.
4th phase: The previous reflections on dreaming finally lead to the question of Dschuang Dse and Descartes (see point 1): How does dreaming differ from being awake? To discuss this question, children should consider what happens when someone dreams? Do you know exactly what you’re doing? Can you stop your dream at night when you don’t want to dream anymore? Why? Why not? When someone goes to bed, can someone choose not to dream? Why? Why not?
These questions lead to the finding that at night someone cannot dream what he wants and cannot actively intervene in the action. This control function is available for daytime activities.
As a final thought experiment, the question could then be asked, why do people need dreams at all??
The children may also talk about their fearful dreams while philosophizing about dreams. Jonas already learns from the fox in the book that a dream is a book with a beautiful or ugly picture. An ugly picture is a nightmare.
Starting from this point in the book, the children should also talk about their ugly dreams if they want to. After that it is advisable to read the story of "Traumfresserchen" read by Michael Ende who eats all bad dreams. The children should then make this dream guzzler so that they have the feeling that their bad dreams will disappear again.
4. Final remark: dreaming is part of being human
Man is one zoon logon echon, was once written by the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC) – a thinking and speaking being, but also a dreaming one, could be added. He not only asks questions to the world, but also dreams the world forward: How do I imagine future life on the planet? How can people succeed in trusting each other and not destroying each other??
These dreams and dreams of the future have always played a major role in the philosophical tradition. And everyone dreams them in their own individual way.
In dreams there is great potential for the development of people and society. The more a person dreams – and as Jonas’ mother says "with the heart dreams" – the more he unfolds his desires for himself and his future life. Jonas’ dream, into which he sinks at the end of the book, invites all of us to continue dreaming, both children and adults. And everyone determines in their own way where the dream journey is going.
The following thoughts were expressed by kindergarten children in a project on Hubert Schirneck’s book (cf. Brüning 2006):
A dream is like a book,
that you have in your head,
but without letters.
And you can always do that
turn the page."
A dream is something,
that you experience,
but that is not true at all.
You can dream
see at once.
In bad dreams,
there are monsters, for example.
In good dreams,
you want something nice
for example a trip to Mallorca.
Sabrina, 5 years
Dreams at night
can’t be stopped.
They’ll be over when mom wakes me up
or when I wake up.
5. Specific project proposal for working with the book "What is a dream asks Jonas"
1. Reading phase and conversation phase
We start with the introduction of the mole Jonas. He dreamed at night and now he has a problem: he wants to know what a dream is, but his parents cannot answer the question. Jonas is sad.
Reading the story from the page where Jonas climbs to the page where he asked all the animals and the dream comparisons have been drawn in the book.
- Which answer of the animals do you like best? Why do you like them??
- Can you think of anything else that could be a dream??
Play phase (if possible outside)
After this first conversation there is a game phase. Five children are selected; they play the animals from history. They go into a corner with the teacher and practice how they come to the other children as animals and show as a pantomime what a dream is:
The fox: reads a book
The bear: plays the violin
The rabbit: looks through the telescope
The owl: imitates the crawling of a fly
The ant drives a boat, e.g. rowing motion
The children then come to the group in a free order that does not correspond to the order of the book; the group children have to guess who is which animal and with what it compares a dream.
While the five children are practicing, the other children are also designing a pantomime as a common game:
First we sit there like Jonas, sad and curled up –
Then we roll up –
We dig ourselves up –
Then we hear who is there?
Then we look around –
Then we call for the animals (without speech, just by moving our mouth)
And finally we shout out loud: What is a dream?
This game is practiced two to three times; then the children wait for the animals and guess who is playing which animal.
2. Second reading phase
The story is read to the end.
- Jonas goes to the land of dreams at the end? Have you been there before? Tell about your land of dreams.
- Could you imagine one day not dreaming anymore? Why? Why not?
- Jonas has nice dreams. Are there bad dreams too? What do you do with them?
At the end of the book, Jonas sails to the land of dreams in a ship. What could happen there? (short conversation) Let’s paint it together (all paint together on a wallpaper roll). Philosophy continues.
Brüning, Barbara: Philosophizing in primary school. Berlin 2001
Dschuang Dse: poetry and wisdom. Transl. Hans Otto Heinrich Stange. Island Library No. 499. Wiesbaden 1957
El Saadawi, Naval: Fundamentalism against women. Munich 2002
Henning Mankell: I am dying, but memories are alive. Vienna 2004
Mathews, Gareth B .: Thinking samples. Berlin 1991
Schierneck, Hubert / Graupner, Silvia: What is a dream, asks Jonas. Vienna 2003
Literature on the subject of dreams
a) Didactic specialist literature
Brüning, Barbara: dreams. In: Brüning, Barbara: Philosophizing in primary school. Cornelsen Scriptor. Berlin 2001, pp. 88-93
Brüning, Barbara: Children are the best philosophers. Book publisher for women. Leipzig 2006 (thoughts of younger children on different topics, e.g. thinking and dreaming)
Matthews, Gareth B .: amazement. In: Thinking samples. Philosophical ideas of younger children. Freese Verlag. Berlin 1991, pp. 26-38
Petermann, Hans-Bernhard: There is no such thing. ". Between dream and reality: reality. In: Petermann, Hans-Bernhard: Can a herring drown? Philosophize with picture books. Beltz. Weinheim 2004, pp. 55-73
Zoller, Eva: Philosophize with the little ones: e.g. about dreaming. In: Journal for the Didactics of Philosophy and Ethics 1991, Issue 1, pp. 50-53
Ende, Michael / Fuchshuber, Annegret: The Dream Eater. Thienemann. Stuttgart 1978 (The Dream Eater eats all bad dreams)
Hartig, Monika: Monika Hartig tells of dreaming. Oetinger. Hamburg 1994 (children’s non-fiction book about dreams, e.g. the difference between day and night dreams)
Lindgren, Astrid: In the Land of Twilight. Oetinger. Hamburg 1986 (The Relationship between Reality and Dream)
Schierneck, Hubert / Graupner, Silvia: What is a dream? asks Jonas. Jungbunnen. Vienna 2003 (approaching a difficult term)
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