Superheroes, Weapon Play and a Giveaway

admin Boys Learning, Child Initiated Learning, Role Play, Talk, Weapon and Superhero Play 172 Comments

Last month was all about Superheroes for me. It is not that I developed an overriding urge to wear my underpants over my trousers (although it has been known!). I just ended up doing a lot of talking, writing and idea sharing around the positive impact of Superhero and Weapon play for children in Early Years.


March saw the official release of ‘Creative Role Play in the Early Years’ in which I have outlined my thoughts on what makes really effective role play work and why. As Superhero and Weapon play does take up a considerable amount of a lot of children’s role play time, there is a section in the book that explores the reasons behind why children play in that way and what you can do to enhance it rather than try to eradicate it (which never works!).


I have been writing a series of articles for Early Years Educator Magazine over the past year and this month was all about that Superhero and gun obsession that for some children, seems to punctuate every session of Continuous Provision and free play.


Good role play of any sort, allows children to explore questions and emotions that they encounter in every day life in a controlled environment and a safe context. They can explore what is possible and, equally as importantly, what is impossible. Exploring what is risky and dangerous through play is essential if we want our children to be able to acknowledge and accept the limits of reality.

There is a huge element of emotional exploration that goes on during Superhero and weapon play. Through power struggle and combat children can put themselves into semi-real situations that allow them to experience and combat negative emotions.


As adults we tend to me far more literal in our interpretations of children’s Superhero and weapon play, so when we see play fighting we see violence and aggression as the main catalysts for the play, which is rarely the case. I am not saying that play fighting doesn’t sometimes turn into actual aggression, but that was not the intention when the play started out. If it was then it wouldn’t be play, it would just be a fight!

By it’s very nature this sort of play involves struggle, chase, competition, noise! It is often adrenalin fueled play, there is a high level of thrill for the children taking part so it will be fast and loud. We cannot penalise children for that. If we accept that this sort of play is going to take place then we need to make provision for it, both inside and out, and make sure that the whole team have clear expectations about what is acceptable and what isn’t.


In cultures where they do not have guns, children still engage this this type of play only their guns are replaced with spears, bows and arrows. It is the same symbolism.

Is there any difference between children playing ‘robbers’ and pointing guns at each other and children playing ‘Harry Potter’ or ‘Fairies’ and pointing their wands to cast spells and kill each other? Does it feel better because it is not a gun? Surely the end result is the same thing – power. It is just that the symbolism is more acceptable to adults.

Harry_potter_1Courtesy of Warner Bros.

The question that I always ask myself is: when our children are engaged in gun play, are they practising to become a man with a gun or are they just exploring emotions such as control, risk and a sense of power?

Lots of our children’s essential emotional connections, consolidation and development can be made through fantasy play. The more opportunity they get to rehearse them, the more proficient they will get at managing them.

EY04172_2_smallSuperhero Dress Up Set 2  - TTS

Through Superhero and weapon type role play children can learn to manage their own feelings by displacing them. They can make things turn out as they want them to, reinvent the truth and explore other possible outcomes that wouldn’t be possible in ‘real’ life where there is only one.


Wrestling, chasing, play fighting all help children to experience ‘safe’ danger assess risk and take appropriate action. As a species we are ‘hunter gatherers’. Much of the way that children play is grounded in instinct and an innate desire to hone our survival skills. Our experience of current culture just dressed them differently from our days in the cave!

Most often, but not always, these children are boys who are attracted helplessly to this play for five key reasons:

  • making guns is an easily achievable task

  • weapon play relates to early communications skills
  • major themes of children’s play are represented in weapon-related playing

  • running in big spaces, outside is a preferred play style

  • it is a universal language that requires no language.

If you want to read more about this kind of play and what you can do to support it then get your hands on a copy of this month’s EYE and/or enter the Giveaway below.

So, what am I giving away in this month? Well…

The lovely people at TTS have given me five sets of superhero figures to give away.


These are miniature, generic Superhero figures that would be a great enhancement to your Small World and other areas.


I am also going to throw in five copies of ‘Creative Role Play in the Early Years’ for good measure.

PicMonkey Collage

This of course means that this month there will be FIVE winners (I know, the excitement is unbearable).

All you have to do to stand a chance of winning a set of figures and a book is:

Leave a comment on this blog post and/or

Leave a comment on the ABC Does Facebook page and/or

Tweet me about the Giveaway @ABCDoes

All comments and tweets must be received by noon on Saturday 12th Aril 2014

FIVE winners will be drawn by random number generator and the lucky recipients will be informed via the method/s that they entered the Giveaway.

Good Luck!

Before I go, just a quick conferences update

It had been really good to see all of you that have managed to make it along to an ABC Does conference. As most of the current dates have sold out, next weekend I will be posting the dates for the next lot.

Alongside new dates for ‘Excellence in Early Years‘ and ‘From Mark Maker to Writer‘, I am also running two new ones. 

‘Heads Up’  – specifically for Head teachers, Senior Leaders and Governors, looking at attainment and best practice in EYFS. How it works, tracking high level attainment in and out of direct teaching, auditing your provision for best outcomes for children, being ‘Ofsted ready’ and lots more.

‘Transition – No Space, No Staff, No Stuff!’ - to make sure that our lovely Year One teachers are not left out, a course that really gets to the bottom of how transition into KS1 can work effectively, how to plan for it, what it looks like and how to maintain levels of attainment for both EYFS and KS1 children.

Look out for details on the ‘conferences’ page of the blog.

For those of you who broke up yesterday – have a lovely Easter holiday. For those of you (like me) who have got another week to go – just keep thinking about the chocolate and it will be Friday before you know it!


adminSuperheroes, Weapon Play and a Giveaway

Comments 172

  1. Lucy Oakley

    I really want these for my class. ……the children would love them almost as much as me!!!!!

  2. Karen Cox

    Have just finished a superhero topic with my Reception class, which they loved, especially with the introduction of a brand new super villain, Crazy Cat! This would be such a great addition to the resources.

  3. karen mcconkey

    Yes please! Superheros are a fab topic to really inspire imagination & lots of charging about outside

  4. joanne stanley

    We would love these to enhance our role play especially as we are developing role play in years One and Two as well as EYFS

  5. Louise

    Superheroes is a great interest for early years, also just done a term on this… Was great, these would really add something!!

  6. Hannah Moore

    This would be a fab addition to our small world. I have only 10 boys and 20 girls in my class and they are all very much into super heroes we are trying to foster it by linking to the Lego movie but the more resources the better.

  7. Anne Smith

    We needs Superheroes! And underpants add a whole new choice to sequencing in dressing yourself! I can feel an idea for instructional writing coming on!

  8. Charlotte Pierce

    My children would love these in my class. They would really enhance my superhero topic that I am doing next term.

  9. Pippa Saint

    We have been focussing on superheroes this term! It’s amazing how engaged the children are when working as a team to fight off imaginary monsters!!!

  10. Harriet

    Wow they are great figures and would be perfect for our whole school arts|science superhero week.

  11. Michelle Spence

    I NEED to get these. We have a group of boys who everyday play superheros and play gun fighting, and coming from Northern Ireland gun play is something all adults struggle with. Really need to read your article in full to be able to advance the children’s play and change the mindsets of those who have a fear of this play! Of course the wee figurines would be brilliant too! :) thank you for this article. Michelle Spence

  12. Sarah

    My class are obsessed with superheroes! I bought some tacky power ranger style figures from pound land the other week but they broke so quickly! These wooden superheroes would be amazing for my provision :)

  13. Ann McGovern

    Once again a fantastic blog backed up by knowledge of children. Yes please – we would love these in our boy heavy reception class! Happy Easter.

  14. Michelle Smith

    I have a whole bunch of superheroes at my Pre-school who would love these. I’m always looking for exciting new roleplay ideas too.

  15. Mar

    love it..We are at the start of the journey as a staff team to accept gun play (one of our teachers used to work in Dumblane) Would love your book to support us.

  16. Caroline Thomas

    Superhero play a constant in our Nursery school with both boys and girls. They would love these! Great blog. It will really help to explain this type of play to parents volunteers and support staff.

  17. Emma Burt

    These figures would be perfect for our setting at the moment as the topic of superheroes and play fighting has just be raised by a parent. I showed her your article in EYE!

  18. Jo Sawyer

    Boys boys boys….in my setting the role of the superhero has been used to manage and support behaviour and feelings positively particularly with boys.These little superheroes would be a fantastic addition to our character box which contains allsorts from Peppa Pig to Power Rangers!

  19. Joanne Roberts

    We’ve just finished our superhero topic. We created our own class super hero ‘MEGABOY!’ Megaboy could fly, he had super hearing and he shot sleep bombs at the baddies to send them to sleep. My children would love these little figures for our small world area!

  20. Jenny Watkins

    We love being superheroes and had a fabulous time last term, but new and fresh ideas are always welcome.

  21. Jan Waugh

    We’ve had great fun being superheroes this half term. These would add great fun to our resources as I think the theme will roll on and on

  22. Joanne Hughes

    Would love to get my hands on all these superhero resources! I was looking at those small world figures this week! Love them! Feeling lucky! Ann smith love your idea!

  23. Lisa Warner

    My class would love this. My girls love superheroes just as much as the lads. We have a dress up box of different costumes and winning this prize would be a fabulous enhancement. Fingers crossed.
    Lisa Warner

  24. Gillian Pykett

    My foundation class would absolutely love these superheroes!! And I bet the book is amazing as are all of your oyhers, I’m currently reading ‘continuos provision in the Early years and have gained some fantastic ideas from it!!

  25. Charlotte

    We have superheroes in some form or other most weeks and these would really add to the experiences please

  26. Hels

    Great article, whilst doing Castles and Knights we got lots of comments from non FS staff about the sword play, they just see aggression.Think I will share this with them, thanks :-)

  27. Alanda

    This article has been one of the most relevant to me as I have a core group of boys who love nothing more than racing around and firing guns at each other. Although I do not stop this form of play, it has not been something that I felt comfortable with and I have told the boys that I don’t want them to pretend to shoot me. Reading this article has made me realise that I need to look at the wider learning potential of this play, and it is clear that I have been missing a trick. It could be tapped into as a powerful way of improving the communication skills of one of my reluctant boys aswell. I think that we will be staring with superheroes next half term as a result, so pretty please choose us to win the prize! Thank you!

  28. Louise Broome

    The children in our Early years would love these figures to help with their imaginative super hero play. Only the other day our headmistress comment why is it boys always have to have some kind of weapon in their hand? Because their saving the world from an alien force was the answer.

  29. Catherine McHugh

    We’re just approaching the end of our superheroes topic which the children loved. Unfortunately we didn’t have any of these but they would be great for the next time! Great article to share :-)

  30. Holly

    Wow my EY’s setting would love these. I have lots of super hero loving boys in my reception class and even more in our pre-school.
    Your vacant to engaged book has made such a difference to our setting!

  31. Lindsey Farrow

    Fantastic article which I have shared, one parent has already thanked me for giving her a greater understanding of this type of play as it has been something that worries her! Would love this fantastic resource. Will be investing in a copy of EYE as well! Got fingers and everything else crossed.

  32. Jo Purvis

    Wow, just what I’m looking for as an enhancement and provocation for the children in my reception class.

  33. Catherine Sandow

    My children love the story of Charlie’ missing superhero underpants and thoroughly enjoyed our superhero topic which I will repeat next year!!!

  34. Charlotte

    My little reception class would love this , my girlies are really into role play and using their imaginations and I have 21 boys who would love this!!!!

  35. Rachel Heath

    Some budding superheroes would be delighted with the toys but benefit even more from some well informed teachers who can understand the superhero play properly!

  36. Wanda

    Go go Underpants Man. Thanks for a great article again, if only our recent inspector had looked at this first. She demanded to scrutinise my planning (objective led and really thorough!) and see why the boys were running around chasing each other pretending to have a battle, how could I prove they were making progress. Sadly I was so flummoxed by her negative attitude that I didn’t respond with the justification that she needed and she was able to flounce off having put me well and truly in my place. Grrr…anyway reading this (and the opportunity to gain resources I haven’t paid for), has restored my faith. Thanks ABC.

  37. Rebecca Milne

    Yes please! I see them being used all the time in our early years, whatever the theme,

  38. Ruth Pelletier

    I have battled with this idea of guns for a long time – if you deny the kids the gun, they will use a stick, their fingers or even a carrot! Whatever is handy! Thank you for your perspective. And yes, please, our kidlets would love to set up their play with those figures.

  39. rebeccaparker@olol.lancs.sch.uk

    I love reading your books, so many good ideas that you can put into practice.

  40. Gemma

    Would love to win these. I have 3 boys in my class who are obsessed with ninja turtles and power rangers and I find it really difficult to decide how far to let them go with their ‘fighting’.

  41. Heidi

    I am sooo pleased to see this aspect of boys play highlighted and developed positively! Having two boys of my own and a younger daughter I drastically changed my view of play with weapons and fighting as soon as I realised castle visits and toy pirate ships could not be part of their experiences without. We had a full armoury and a trampoline that still doubles as a wrestling ring ( with full light/ music effects as their ICT skills have developed). I quickly realised this was how they were developing self control amongst many other positive skills! I have been exasperated working with staff at work constantly banning ‘guns’ and play fighting and have felt as though I was swimming against the tide. Your articles really back up my own view and give fabulous advice on how to use this to enhance provision and raise attainment. So well timed as my non-mark making boys have recently all morphed into ‘Magneto’ and ‘Iron man’!

  42. Hannah K

    It would be fantastic to win these figures. My class would love them, we have the whole Marvel universe coming to play at the moment and the book will be invaluable when sharing and developing ideas for role play.

  43. Alison Ward

    These would go down a storm with our children at school!!
    Looking forward to attending your training next month in Birmingham

  44. Jackie Connolly

    The children in our class would love these… and I would love the book! Thanks for a great article.

  45. Vic

    Desperate for this input!! We are largely an EAL nursery and the children struggle to express themselves. I feel these would help us all. Also I’m not proud to say it but our role play is currently our weakest point. Please help us.

  46. melanie.yates.my@googlemail.com

    Hi, we would absolutely love these to enhance our superhero play. We have a lot of boys in our reception cohort this year and I know these would be very popular. Fingers croased :-)

  47. Nichola

    Ah amazing! I have been really trying to get my boss to understand why boys need to be allowed to play guns… To no avail! Hopefully this will help! I would love this prize!

  48. Katie

    Our nursery really loved the superhero week we had last half term and it is still a major part of their play. Amazing how an upside down table and some tyres became a bat mobil and my favourite image still has to be one of our most active boys tangled in a mass of wool from the Spider-Man web to the point we had to cut him out – still grinning and insisting he could catch the ‘baddie’

  49. Claire

    Have a lot of lively superhero play in our setting, they would really benefit from these lovely small world superheroes

  50. Karen MacQuarrie

    Absolutely fabulous. We are doing Superheroes all next term. These small world characters are amazing and would fit perfectly into our Foundation Stage.
    I am so looking forward to the children’s reactions to being Superheroes every day.

  51. Sarah P

    Love, love, love these! I can imagine many excited children wanting to get their hands on these. Loads of different uses for them. The new book is on my birthday wish list too!

  52. Sharon Thornton

    Just about to do Super Heroes and my children would really love these! I would really like the book too! It would be a welcome addition to my other one on mark-making!

  53. Leanne

    These superheroes would be a fab addition to our small world box. My boys (and some girls) would love these. I’m hoping to have a superhero and weapon play policy introduced into our setting to stop others saying ‘I hope that isn’t a gun’

  54. Nichola Hill

    Yes please to the book and superheroes. I need some help with role play.
    Now I’m off to try and make dinosaur eggs :)

  55. Chris Cox

    These would be fab to share with all my pre school practitioners that I visit during my day to,day job as an EYFS advisor. Discussions happen most days around superhero/weapon play. Thanks in advance!!

  56. Karen

    These resources would really help my campaign to change other adults in our school’s understanding of superhero play and help them embrace it and work with it rather than ban it! Fingers crossed

  57. Amber Dancey

    Please please please! One of our next steps is enhancing our role play provision these would be much loved by our littlies! Thank you

  58. Superhero

    These would be perfect for my class … and typically some of my boys. I found your article on superhero play extremely interesting as we currently have an ethos of no guns/swords/super hero play etc and we are working along a pirate theme at the moment! Doh! After attending your conference on Tuesday you have inspired me to make some changes. Thank you!!!

  59. Katherine

    These look amazing! There’s such limited stuff available in so many settings to get boys interested in this small world type of role playing that these would be a fantastic asset!

  60. Lucy Hannan

    They would be great in the small world, I can think of a few of my kids who would love them!

  61. Sian Scovell

    Great Blog, superhero play is always an issue with staff members, children see so much on the tv, ipad etc they are only role-playing their world, loved your comparison with Harry Potter and wands, would like an opportunity to win these resources for my setting

  62. Ashlin Crutchlow

    Great blog. We have just embraced Superheroes and it has proven very worthwhile! The figures would really help us extend our children’s imagination, language and role play.

  63. Chris

    Let them play … let them be … wherever their imagination takes them – to infinity and beyond!

  64. Dawn Harris

    I really want to embrace superhero play but struggle to communicate how it should be appreciated with my team- please please pick me!!

  65. Juliet Bell

    I had to leave a comment. I am a regular reader of your blog. Your ideas are inspirational and our setting is gradually transforming. Our children would love these, fingers crossed.

  66. Alison Jones

    They’re fab Alistair and would really enhance our role play which is playing a key role after our Gap’s Analysis!

  67. Carol

    Would love to win them – they are much better for imagination than the commercial superheroes figures…..I think one may even bare a resemblance to our Early Years co-ordinator !

  68. Katherine.dack@gmail.com

    Our children at preschool would love these ,and the book would be fab for us all to read and learn from , practitioners are so used to telling the boys not to run and not to play guns and fighting ,but this may just show people the benefits of this play .especially with the big group of boys we have this year .

  69. Amanda

    We have just finished a topic on superheroes,much to the TA’s horror, but they really loved it, engaged all the boys in much more constructive play, introducing a story and rescue then linked to real life heroes! absolutely brilliant,they would love this!

  70. Natalie

    My children would love these figures and the book looks inspiring as ever. Please please please :)

  71. Debbie Rooney

    The children in our setting use weapon play and superheroes all the time it would be a great help to have these resources :0)

  72. Helen

    I love developing creative role play areas. The children love our deconstructed role play area at the moment. Would love to win your book and also the small world Superhero people.

  73. Carly Shaw

    These look lots of fun! i know a lot of little people who would have great fun with these! i also know lots of big people that would enjoy looking at your book! (I’m sure the big people would like the figures too!)

  74. ali_stone2883@hotmail.com

    We’re just about to introduce our ‘Superhero and Weapon play’ policy into our school (for staff as well as parents), so we’d love these little characters…and books! Fingers crossed!

  75. sara

    This book would not only enhance the childrens play but also inform the practitioners of the benefits of such play.

  76. L

    I am trying to educate my fellow colleagues to embrace this…zoning into the children’s specific needs and interests. Amazing resources and very versatile.

  77. Lisa Bailey

    Yes please. We have super hero crazy boys in our setting who would love to get their hands on these.

  78. Lizzy Hales

    The children in our setting LOVE small world play and superheroes. We have just planted a small world garden in our outdoor area and the children have been making bridges and obstacles for our Happyland characters. These superheroes look so much more appealing (and a lot less plastic!). We would love to win them.

  79. priceyandchelle@icloud.com

    Wow! what a fabulous resource. We would love these to enhance our superhero/everyday hero small world.

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