Superheros, Pretend Weapons - Child's Play or Is There More To It?

“My whip has magic in it and turns you into a toilet!” – Child, Teacher Tom’s Class

A few days ago, I saw a blog posted on Twitter about superhero and weapon play.  It was an insightful post that got me thinking about the difficulty of negotiating philosophies that might differ between parents and caregivers. 

Or had you even thought about the need to have a policy for a seemingly natural part of a child’s existence.  Do you think it’s necessary?

With recent violence in schools, especially all of the shootings, it makes sense that our awareness as parents and caregivers would be heightened.  We’re more sensitive to the children’s behaviors we observe, wondering if that type of play is indicative of “real world” behavior as they grow into adults.  Is early childhood the time to begin teaching right vs. wrong, boundaries and respect?  Most would agree, yes!  Is superhero and weapon play the right time to interfere?  There are differing opinions.  

Based on a quick google search, I wanted to share some of the articles and posts, some of which argue superhero and weapon play are necessary parts of a child’s play and therefore development.  Below are some phrases to indicate what the posts were about and might get us thinking about how to handle this topic.  Most of these phrases or variations of them come from these three articles and posts:

Positive Words Associated with Superhero and Weapon Play

  • Release tensions
  • Inclusive
  • Rule Making   
  • Solutions 
  • Negotiations 
  • Imagination
  • Empathy 
  • Exploration 
  • Support Physical Development 
  • Experiment with Power Control over Their World
  • Common Interests with Peers 

Phrases Associated with Common Concerns for Caregivers 

  • Fear
  • Not Gender Inclusive 
  • Noise Risk of Accidents 
  • Children May Hurt Each Other 
  • Other Children Don’t Like It 
  • Opposite of Peaceful Play 
  • Violent Play
  • Lack of Control 

Phrases Associated with Supporting Superhero and Weapon Play in Group Settings 

  • Listen 
  • Help Facilitate 
  • Clear Guidelines 
  • Let Children Make the Rules 
  • Be Proactive with suggestions for conflict resolution 
  • Take advantage of extending learning opportunities with literacy, art, math or music 
  • Know the characters they are pretending to be 
  • Encourage focus on positive themes 
  • Take part, sit in the middle, engage 
  • Substitute “killing” with “freezing” or … 
  •  

The post that got me wondering about all of this was “The Two Separate Issues of Superhero Play and Weapon Play.”  While many seem to conflate the two, Cindy Terebush draws a distinct line and believes that once a child walks into Kindergarten, they should leave their weapon play at home. How do you handle this?  Do you have a no weapon/superhero play policy?  

Please share your thoughts in the comments.  Friendly Reminder to be respectful of our community and our differing opinions.


References

Barnes, H. (2008). The Value of Superhero Play. Putting Children First, 15-21. 

Ministry of Education. (2009, July 9). Superhero or Weapons Play. Retrieved from Early Childhood Education ECE Lead: http://www.lead.ece.govt.nz/ManagementInformation/GoverningAndManaging/

ProvidingPositiveGuidance/SomeCommonAreasOfConcern/SuperheroOrWeaponsPlay.aspx

Two Separate Issues of Superhero Play and Weapon Play. Retrieved from Helping Kids Achieve with Cindy Terebush: http://cindyterebush.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-two-separate-issues-of-superhero.html

Tom, T. (2011, March 28). Gun Play. Retrieved from Teacher Toms Blog: http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/gun-play.html 

Tom, T. (2013, February 2). The Shape of the Block in My Hand. Retrieved from Teacher Toms Blog: http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-shape-of-block-in-my-hand.html

Additional Resources and Information

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Samantha Marshall, M.A.

Samantha is, just like you, excited to make a difference in our community and our world. With a Master of Arts degree in English Literature, you might ask how she found herself building and writing for a website focused on child care. From 1995 through 2001, Samantha started her career working for Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) sponsors which introduced her to the importance of non-profits, community and quality child care. Her experience with Sponsors, State Officials, and Family Child Care Providers left a great and lasting impression. Later in her career and her most recent position at SAGE Publications, an academic publisher, was as a product manager for a new online resource! During this time many of Samantha's passions collided. A love for the written word, children and the proliferation of knowledge as well as a fascination with the resources the internet gives us, building a community for child care on ChildCareInfo.com is the perfect way to make the difference she wanted to. Needless to say, she is very excited to be an active part of creating and building ChildCareInfo.com.