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Superhero play

We don't play with guns here

Alexis Ralphs Jun 25 • 7 min read
What is lost when we ban boisterous play?

Sugar and spice and all things nice, that's not what superhero play is made of.

Visit a nursery or school at playtime and you might hear a teacher say, 'We don't play with guns here'. Aggressive play, especially from boys, is believed to result in violent behaviour and war games are often banned. But is this right?

If we tell boys (and it is mostly boys) that they mustn't play these games, aren't we saying that we don't value the things that they do? Aren't we telling them that there is something wrong with how they feel and how they express themselves?

One solution is to help children see disagreements in less stark terms, to see beyond goodies and baddies. Does Batman have to kill the crooks? Couldn't he just take them to prison? Is it OK to push the child who took their ball?

By helping our children to see beyond caricatures, we guide them towards more compassionate beliefs and more sophisticated ways of resolving conflicts.

When a battling hero has to choose between revenge and mercy, it can be the most perfect 'teachable moment'.

If we insist our children 'play nicely', what is gained? And what is lost?


To read more about this topic, read the excellent We Don't Play with Guns Here, by Penny Holland.

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