In our preschool room right now, many of the boys and some of the girls are showing an interest in superhero play. This type of dramatic play usually follows on with some form of rough and tumble play and/or weapon play. This current interest of the children has sparked conversation between the entire centre’s staff about allowing this superhero and weapon play to continue or if it should be stopped.
I feel the obvious train of thought about weapons is that their made to hurt and hurting others is wrong. I can see why people have that point of view. They do not want to promote violence in children. But in the case of dramatic superhero play, it is not about the aspect of violence to those children.
Based on studies that I have read over the years, as well as my own experiences with children role playing superheroes, I feel that pretending to have weapons in their dramatic play is acceptable. I have seen benefits of this play. Benefits include stimulating their imagination further. The children come to understanding that some others might not want to play this game and that consent from other peers is important during play situations. Children get a self of esteem, when they are empowered with responsibility of saving others. They learn empathy for others, as it’s now their job to save the less fortunate, feel part of a group and build social skills, when they form a league of heroes to fight together. When engaging in physical play, children learn when rough is too rough and can then self-regulate their physicality.
Much research has been done on children who were heavily into weapon play at a young age, then followed as they get older and older. There is no evidence to link playing with pretend weapons at a young age to becoming a violent person at an older stage of life. Children won’t become violent individuals if they role play cowboys and Batman.
This is again my opinion and I can understand why others have the opposite opinion; this may be due to personal experiences around guns. I feel we should allow the option of playing superhero/weapon play at early childhood services. If children or educators do not want to take part I this play then that should be respected, but allow the children who would to continue with it and have the educators that are comfortable with gun play monitor it.
Here are several links to websites that explain the research completed on the topic of children and gun play.