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Weapon play/fighting monsters game


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Hi!

My latest dilemma!

I have 3 boys who are very 'into' playing goodies and baddies type fighting games - fighting monsters, sword play etc. There has been a few times where they have been using knives from the home-corner as weapons near faces at which I have (rightly or wrongly?) intervened. The problem is that although I am aware of the need to allow children to engage in this type of role-play, I'm always concerned about how far to let them go with it. I find that this is a type of play that children can get 'stuck' in and am trying to find different ways to extend and develop it, so it is much more than just who can make the biggest arm movement to kill the biggest baddy (although this is good for gross-motor skills!!) So far we have made pictures full-sized monsters by drawing around the children then making them into monsters using different mark-making equipment and creative resources, made maps to help us find the monsters and built a den outside to hide from the monsters.

I want to allow for the children to explore this type of role-play but don't want to encourage 'stuck' low-level, repetitive play. Where do you 'draw the line' in using resources for different purposes? E.g. 2 of the boys (one of which can be aggressive towards the other children) were using the magnet sticks as swords. I did stop them to explain to them what they were really for and as there are only 2 of them, they must use them as magnets or put them back. It's such a quandary, I certainly don't want to limit creativity but also want to keep play purposeful and safe.

Thanks

Green Hippo x

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This is so difficult but I'm impressed at your ideas to extend play with mark making and den building and may well steal that idea.

I too am thinking through this dilemma as I have a small group of boys playing guns at the preschool I am now managing who have always had a "no weapons at preschool" rule. I am not entirely sure that this should be the case however and have observed children making guns with lego and then another child picking up a wooden car ramp to wield!

Would love to hear other views about this type of play.

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We dropped our weapon ban a few years back. We found that we were continually on at children not to make weapons and in the end, they would make them from absolutely anything. If you took it all away, they will make guns with their fingers. We also found that we were forcing children to lie about their weapons. As soon as an adult came close, they would say "It's not a gun, it's a hose" or similar! I think green hippo's ideas are great. I guess the line has to be drawn when things become unsafe. The other day, I discovered a 'game' going on where two children were in a big cardboard box and were 'baddies'. Other children were 'stabbing' them through the box with home corner knives and forks! That game came to a quick end, but as you say, it's redirecting the play that they love into something less dangerous and with some learning potential.

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we have tried as you green hippo to extend play, but it always goes back to low level play. we are now banning, as they were using mobilo to make weapons and there were no longer pieces for others to use to make things so spoilt play. also they are on xboxes etc at home and so get their fill of this sort of thing i feel. and in maintained nursery where numbers of staff are low - 2 to 26 or 3 to 39 - i don't want a small group ruining resources and activities and making it unsafe for others and worrying children. shoot me down if you want but it is so much better since the ban!! they have outdoor play to be more boisterous if they want. and we ensure there is enough of a challenge and nice activities out based on all children's interests, and the group who used to be obsessed with weapon play are now accessing other activities and learning what fun they are, rather than limiting their own (and others) play

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I'm glad I'm not the only one considering this! It's a tricky one!

Would never dream of shooting you down Sooty99 (but we can't anyway because you've banned the guns!! He! He!)

I do tend to say that these types of games are for outside as they inevitably end up with some sort of chase and we have a walking only rule inside (dancing is allowed though!)

I am continually trying to home-in on other interests to provide interest and challenge with other activities. One of these boys (the one that can be aggressive) is extremely hard to 'get to'. He loves music but has to be reminded constantly to use 'friendly sounds' (our name for not playing the instruments as loud as you can!!!) and nearly all his play ends up with some sort of chase or follow my leader. It hasn't helped that a little boy with some Communication and social problems has taken to him and just follows him around!

Green Hippo x

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Sad to hear banning a type of play because it does not fit in with others .

 

Create some rules around fighting, work them out with children

 

As for enhancing making superhero or monster busting gadgets, superhero belts, small bum bags worn by superhero s to carry their writing equipment

 

Using lasers or nerf guns to shoot numbers

 

Squeeze bottle of monster busting liquid to (water) to knock down empty small numbered water bottles

 

Large junk models or large wooden blocks to build transportation

 

The list is endless

 

You can't ban them making guns, they will find something else to use. Go with their interests enjoy it, embrace it

Their interests will change when they are ready to do so

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Sad to hear banning a type of play because it does not fit in with others .

 

Create some rules around fighting, work them out with children

 

As for enhancing making superhero or monster busting gadgets, superhero belts, small bum bags worn by superhero s to carry their writing equipment

 

Using lasers or nerf guns to shoot numbers

 

Squeeze bottle of monster busting liquid to (water) to knock down empty small numbered water bottles

 

Large junk models or large wooden blocks to build transportation

 

The list is endless

 

You can't ban them making guns, they will find something else to use. Go with their interests enjoy it, embrace it

Their interests will change when they are ready to do so

we have tried things like this and we have made our decision and are sticking with it as it works for us.

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We also prefer walking inside but for 10 mins or so at the beginning of the session the boys especially need to run, so they do if you listen a lot of Language is happening, PSED etc, when you glance around the room 20 mins later all are down and concentrating on other child led play.

 

We need to be getting it right for the boys as their development usually lags behind the girls

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If the play is getting out of hand

The key is observe and then step in.

 

Join their role play by narrating their play and turning it into a story and steering the story into an imaginative adventure meeting new characters along the way. They often want a turn at being the story teller.

 

For that friendly type of wrestling put down crash mats covering a large area. This often turns into a lot of children wanting to show me how they can do a head over heels. Rolling often turns into Ten in the bed and the little one says roll over. Child out gets to count the ones left.

 

Throwing things. Get them to build towers from duplo in an out of the way area. Use beanbags and balls to knock them down.

 

When they are building simple guns join them and ask where is the handle, view finder to see the target etc. Let them build an assault course.

 

Soldiers and wooden bricks work well with some of our older boys. Share out the soldiers and let them each build a base and hide their soldiers. This promotes a lot or conversation about how they have hidden them. Take turns to throw a dice and let them knock down that many soldiers of their enemy's using one soldier to knock them down.

 

Mask Making!

 

I agree you can't stop boys play, you just need to be ready to join in!

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I remember a few years ago having this dilemma and in a frantic moment I bought hte book 'we don't play with guns here' by Penny Holland described as War, weapon and superhero play has been banned in many early childhood settings for over 30 years. This book explores the development and application of a zero tolerance approach through the eyes of children and practitioners

I was hope ful that this was going to help me deal with the persistent gun players.... and thought about my own setting as the book's first page described something very similar to that which had just happened with me. A boy was happily building with the lego, making guns and pretending to shoot all his friends. I encouraged him to build something else, just this once, maybe a boat or a plane. I was thrilled 10 minutes later when this child called me over to show me the barge that he had built... here is the bottom, here are the doors, I was so pleased and suggested that he showed it to my colleague. As this boy walked off he looked at me over his shoulder and whispered "it's got a gun on it though".

I realised then what an impossible task it is to 'ban' gun play and the book just reinforced it!! Well worth getting out from the library.

 

My rule now is 'you can only play guns with other children who want to play guns'.

 

Works for us.

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Boys in our setting have lots of opportunity to explore and express their strength and power, for example through large scale play and projects involving carrying, rolling, pushing, running and climbing; and we share leadership with the children in the group.

We are inclusive by enabling everyone to feel safe and happy, which means that we will not allow any child to make any other child feel unsafe and unhappy. That's why we don't allow any games which may frighten others. One may say that we're not inclusive for that reason, but children's emotional well-being is more important. For safety children are also not allowed to point sticks at others. Thereby we, hopefully, avoid that any child who may wants to play with guns feels judged.

If it's vital for them to explore killing, for example to process fears of something they have seen on TV, they can do it at home. I won't contribute to any child having such nightmares as a boy had, when there was another one with us who as playing games with violent themes.

Edited by Wildflowers
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Green hippo i think you have to look at the play and decide whether it is 'useful' and resourceful or low level and destructive. If it's the latter then i see no issues with redirecting it to another area (if they are making swords what about sheilds/castles etc ...we have a lot of castle building going on at the moment) I run on pacifist lines(because it's right for my setting) i do not allow killing games and gun play is monitored carefully. I have never found it helpful or constructive ....but this is my setting with a certain type of children. I do not get lots of children making guns from lots of different things and disagree with this premise....but all settings are different do what they need and you'll be right!

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Seems that I've started a bit of a discussion here!

I think you've hit the nail on the head Finleysmaid - we have to all do what is right for our settings. I also don't have a great number of children playing with guns or killing games and when they do I try to extend and develop it so that it is not low-level, repetitive play. I also try to question the need for the use of the guns e.g. the other day I was interacting with 2 of the boys that like the goodies and baddies games - they were looking for Goblins to take back to their cave (the playhouse) - I joined in with this and we had a discussion about where Goblins might hide and off we went to find them. We made a trail with the stepping stones and hoops so that we could find out way back and then we spotted them at the other side of the gate. We used the cones as 'fire' to stop them coming in and then they build a wall using foam bricks and wooden bricks. One of the boys said "and then we need a gun on the top" - this is where I questioned him - "do we need a gun?" "do we need to shoot them if they can't come in?" etc I didn't at any point tell him to remove the gun but felt it was right to question this as this is where I think the play can get stuck "lets just stick a gun on the top..." (it's ok but what's the reason?). I think some children can get into a real 'rut' of using the word 'kill' in any context and instead of saying 'no you must not...' I try to get them to think about what that means. E.g. same boy today - using skipping ropes to catch and kill the whale - so I talked to him about the fact that there a not many whales left anymore and killing them might not be the best idea. He loves fishing so that got him onto the fish that his dad and caught and which ones they can eat.

These situations also make me consider an ABC-does type question: if these children are always going back to the same type of play, is there nothing else that interests them in our setting and what can I do about this?

Green hippo x

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Seems that I've started a bit of a discussion here!

I think you've hit the nail on the head Finleysmaid - we have to all do what is right for our settings. I also don't have a great number of children playing with guns or killing games and when they do I try to extend and develop it so that it is not low-level, repetitive play. I also try to question the need for the use of the guns e.g. the other day I was interacting with 2 of the boys that like the goodies and baddies games - they were looking for Goblins to take back to their cave (the playhouse) - I joined in with this and we had a discussion about where Goblins might hide and off we went to find them. We made a trail with the stepping stones and hoops so that we could find out way back and then we spotted them at the other side of the gate. We used the cones as 'fire' to stop them coming in and then they build a wall using foam bricks and wooden bricks. One of the boys said "and then we need a gun on the top" - this is where I questioned him - "do we need a gun?" "do we need to shoot them if they can't come in?" etc I didn't at any point tell him to remove the gun but felt it was right to question this as this is where I think the play can get stuck "lets just stick a gun on the top..." (it's ok but what's the reason?). I think some children can get into a real 'rut' of using the word 'kill' in any context and instead of saying 'no you must not...' I try to get them to think about what that means. E.g. same boy today - using skipping ropes to catch and kill the whale - so I talked to him about the fact that there a not many whales left anymore and killing them might not be the best idea. He loves fishing so that got him onto the fish that his dad and caught and which ones they can eat.

These situations also make me consider an ABC-does type question: if these children are always going back to the same type of play, is there nothing else that interests them in our setting and what can I do about this?

Green hippo x

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  • 4 weeks later...

Does anyone have a gun play policy in their setting? Does anyone have a zero tolerance to `gun play in their setting?' I am doing an action research project on `gun play' and would value anyones views on this very complex topic.

 

Please share your views on how your setting views gun play.

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For us Superhero play is outside, we use the "I can see your having fun with superhero play but can you remember that superheros are on busy missions outside." We have a walking rule inside and the children respect this. Many will tell other children to walk or show them walking visual.

We then use " Do you remember the rules that we made, superheros help people just like fireman Sam. If we can't help people and play becomes unkind then your superhero play has to finish." We wanted to make superheros more of a positive experience with children seeing them as helpful, changing the dynamics...

Simplistic but it works for us. We support groups of children regularly in managing their play by reminding them of the rules. Staff are consistent with this which helps. Like above similar activities are provided to enhance the quality of play.

This might not be for everyone, take the parts you want you use and have fun!

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There has been a few times where they have been using knives from the home-corner as weapons near faces at which I have (rightly or wrongly?) intervened.

Where I work/ed there is knife crime. Muggings at knife point are not unusual but we also have gang related stabbings/killings in the locality. Several children I have taught in the past had criminal records by 11yrs or are now in prison for very serious (as in making the national news) gun related crimes. Apart from that it's a very nice place!

For children this type of play is something I would typically support from the perspective of it being their play interests. However, I would also want to explore the realities of knife carrying. For some very young children carrying a weapon may not be just pretend/off the TV but an actual reality. If your superhero is not a cartoon character but your knife carrying older brother/sister then it is another thing altogether. Children acting out weapon play may need to be observed to see what they are doing, what language they are using...the normality of actual weapons is something that may not be out there in every setting but for some it will be. Knife carrying in real life is illegal and so would be kept a secret, so making it a secret in the setting could also be harmful. Enabling children to explore the implications of really hurting someone with knives in an open, safe and secure place such as an EYFS setting may be a start to helping children make good decisions later in life?

Just a thought.

Cx

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Does anyone have a gun play policy in their setting? Does anyone have a zero tolerance to `gun play in their setting?' I am doing an action research project on `gun play' and would value anyones views on this very complex topic.

 

Please share your views on how your setting views gun play.

I run my setting on pacifist lines. I don't really allow gun play and never have done (this came after a decision by our parents many years ago) I have decided i must have very unusual children because it often is not a type of play that i see and rarely do i have an issue with it. (and no they don't go and make guns behind my back!) There is however a big difference between super hero play and gun play

As a setting i am often complimented on how calm the children are and we always have more boys than girls. As a child i played gun play with my brother and sister...and we used to 'shoot' people out of the garden gate but that was when programmes on tv always showed the goddies winning and the baddies losing. That is not what children see now. Like Catma i worry about the influences that some of my children experience. I also have a lot of children with additional needs who are confused by 'gun play' massages. So for my setting and the children i look after it is not right but i know there will be lots who disagree with me!

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I think that like cat a said explore whatever interests and play is going on, not ban because we feel uncomfortable with it.

 

If your setting was on an army base or as with my friend her husband was part of the armed police, these need to explored as it is what some parents do for a living, hiding it or banning it I feel is wrong and gives out the wrong to those children who's career s involve arms

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There is however a big difference between super hero play and gun play

I think this is part of the dilemma isn't it? A superhero is awesome. Has super powers. Saves people. A knife fight is not really a superhero thing is it?

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I think that like cat a said explore whatever interests and play is going on, not ban because we feel uncomfortable with it.

 

If your setting was on an army base or as with my friend her husband was part of the armed police, these need to explored as it is what some parents do for a living, hiding it or banning it I feel is wrong and gives out the wrong to those children who's career s involve arms

we are very close to barracks....i have spoken about this to the soldiers and they have said they do not want their children playing with guns. I think using the word Ban is probably too emotive as it doesn't explore how this is discussed and dealt with.
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It's very tricky isn't it? There is some good research out there that supports gun and weapon play and we all survived it! However, when I think back, I used to play these sorts of games when I was 7 + not when I was 3 and 4 and I grew up in house where both my parents owned guns (for sport!) so was aware of there existence. In fact, even Superhero's used to be an older child's interest (I remember my cousin being into them in high-school) but I may be wrong here - we were all into He-man etc which I suppose is equivalent but again I remember watching these types of programs when I was older than 5. The other issue is children's awareness now through computer games - it's that issue of shooting and killing then coming back to life - and lets face it many children these days either play or have seen parents or friends playing these '18' games. On top of this is children's actual real-life experiences which is frightening!

I personally do not like having play-guns pointed at me (or real ones either!!). I don't like Nerf guns etc. Now my eldest son is nearly 7 I don't mind so much but at the moment my 3 year old will point his fingers gun-style at anything he doesn't like (he tried shooting my mum's dogs) so I have had to have a conversation with him about gun-play.

I think that Finleysmaid is right about the word 'ban' - what we are actually doing is setting a rule and rules are there to keep everyone safe and happy - as long as we talk about it with the children and explain why we need different rules then they usually accept this. We have to decide what is right for our settings, including parents wishes etc. Just like any rule - we can make it clear that it is in this setting e.g. just because we say 'we always walk inside' we are not saying that running is wrong.

Very interesting to hear different perspectives,

Green Hippo x

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