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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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!