Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Let boys be boys?

I can't find the post that sparked a debate here about boys playing war or guns or what-have-you, but the British government is now advising nurseries and playgroups to let boys play fantasy superhero and fantasy guns and what not.
The guidance, called Confident, Capable and Creative: Supporting Boys' Achievements, is issued by the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

The report says: "Creating situations so that boys' interests in these forms of play can be fostered through healthy and safe risk-taking will enhance every aspect of their learning and development."

It cites a North London children's centre which helped boys create a "Spiderman House" and print pictures of the superhero from the internet.

This led to improvements in their communication, ability to develop storylines in their play and skills in drawing, reading and writing.

That's not a whole lot to base a policy on, but it feels right to me. My three-year-old walks into a room and stakes a wide-legged stance that says, I'm ready for action! He strikes a tough-guy pose and tone of voice and starts something with me, and I engage, grateful that it's not girl play, which is boooooooooring! Girl play involves holding a pretty barbie next to your daughter's pretty barbie and having absolutely nothing to say about that. Sometimes my son's talk (I get you with my super power fire! for instance) slides into grunts, Urrrrrrrrghhhhhhhhhhhh!

Get it? You don't have to have dialog!

Of course, I grew up in a family of six, with three boys (four if you count Annie), and that's the way they played.

And I did, too, if I was lucky enough.

(Via Dr. Helen.)

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Blogger Mike LaRoche said...

but the British government is now advising nurseries and playgroups to let boys play fantasy superhero and fantasy guns and what not.

A rare instance of common sense from educrats - which is why I'll never let such people anywhere near my kids - if I ever have any of my own, that is.

Common sense is becoming an increasingly rare commodity these days.

Oh, and Happy New Year, Nancy! :)

4:45 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

Unbelievable! When a nation needs the government to set policy or advocation of the correct and most profitable way for children to play, its obviously ignoring far more pressing matters taking place and busily interfering the most private business of raising children!!

Any parent with an ounce of commonsense and who actually spends time with their children will quickly observe that little boys are quite naturally on search and destroy missions that seem to always involve physical antics, heroics, and giant bath towels rubber banded safely yet securely around their necks to ensure a proper and effective superhero cape.

12:29 PM  
Anonymous Vivian Louise said...

LMAO!!!! Like the boys don't find a way to play with guns and swords anyway. Sheesh.

7:51 AM  
Anonymous Brett King said...

Dennis Praeger tells the story of how in his liberal minded past he forbade his young son from playing with toy guns for fear he would grow up to be a murderous beast. At around 4 years old the boy, who Praeger describes as a sensitive, gentle child, began to pick up bread sticks at the dinner table and use them as a toy gun. Praeger realized the ridiculousness of this unfounded fear and let his son play with toy guns afterward. His son is now a kind, gentle college student.

1:57 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Funny story. Yep. They'll pick up anything and shoot it at you--even when you're unarmed!

1:29 PM  
Blogger Zoe said...

I had to laugh at this post - I have three boys myself and I never considered the alternative playing methods! But what really makes me laugh is hearing about your family. I grew up with 2 brothers (three if you count Anna!!)

2:59 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...


My thoughts on the subject vary a lot. Sometimes, merely my mood will change how I feel about gun/war play. Sometimes it seems totally wrong to let that sort of thing be a game at all, other times I'm like, "Eh, who cares?"

I do pretty consistently think that, once they're old enough to understand the fundamentals of what guns do or what war is, parents should have a conversation with kids who play guns/war that addresses the difference between pretend and reality, that one is fun because it's exciting and action-packed and the other is scary because it is really and truly dangerous and serious.

But that branches into a big, long theory I have about kids being raised with both a rich imagination and a healthy respect for reality.

4:18 PM  

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