Thursday, 6 August 2009

rough & tumble...

being the mother of two sons I have come to appreciate and somehow accept this form of play and why it is important that boys engage in it. Now they are older {6 & 3}, they roll around on the floor endlessly and role play, a lot more aggressively than I would like. They have guns and swords which I have allowed as it is part of cowboy, Roman or knight costumes and in my mind somehow educational, but it does make me think twice when I am challenged with said sword when entering a room! I somehow think I should lasso around the light and swing over his head just for the element of surprise it would bring! 

Penny Holland author of "We don't play with guns here" used to operate a zero tolerance policy on weapon play until she noticed that the constant negative attention given to a naturally occurring play theme was having detrimental effects upon the children. "We started working with the play rather than against it, their construction skills improved and imaginative play improved and went on longer because they weren't interrupted."

Liz Austin Ed.D says "Children need symbols of power and gender in their play for specific developmental reasons". So I have tried to work with this interest, we read books about cowboys, knights and romans, we draw, we make castles and design shields. We look at maps, write stories and visit Roman villas. 

When you analyse the benefits of such play, the therapeutic aspects are clear, children come to terms with images they have seen on TV, make sense of their world and the world around them, as a stress release or self esteem booster and may even learn to resolve conflict which may arise and understand good and bad. So I will continue to support these two boys as they continue to grow and challenge me as a parent, I will diffuse play when it becomes too aggressive, encourage their imaginations and provide lots of physical challenges outdoors, such as climbing, building, moving logs. And at the end of the day, I will collapse into bed, exhausted! 

p.s. yes in the photo he is wearing a knight costume over the top of a superman one! How much power can a little man crave! 


  1. We have a 4 years old at home who was so happy because she received the castle she wanted for her birthday and could receive a plastic sword as a prize at a state fair. She is absolutely not into dolls. Talk about gender ! Your post makes me wonder how to get some balance back in her life...

  2. I have the same problem with my 3 year old boy, I have now let him have a sword as he was turning everything into a sword or gun anyway. My problem is, is that his 6 year old sister is not interested in having a sword or gun and does not want to fight with him, I think he needs another male when daddy is not here to do the sword fighting with him to expel some of that energy.
    Sounds like you are doing a great job though in educating them and encouraging them to want to learn as you are helping them find out information about the things they are interested in which in most schools it is the information that the school feels the child needs to know which is not often what they are interested in at the time. I think you will foster a great love of learning there.

  3. Great post. Seriously. My rough and tumble girl is doing some major play processing right now and it involves shooting and killing. I freaked out at first but then came to understand how, along with her constant questions about my late grandparents and what happened to them (there are no easy answers when you're not religious), she's learning about life and death. And she has no toy guns or swords, she just uses sticks.

  4. This is a very current theme in our house (9 year old tom boy girl who likes a bit of gun/sword role play and 4 year old boy who asks sister if 'we can play guns and swords and stabbing" !!!) If a gun is not available he makes one out of anything to hand. He is endlessly obsessed with 'goodies' and 'baddies' - I try to explain that it is rather more of a gray area than simply good and bad!!
    My reason for not being too concerned is that his love of pirates and swords stems from Peter Pan - and what could be more child orientated than that??

  5. Your words are so familiar to me because I have 2 boys that are 4 and 2. My older son has worn a cape and belt with "weapons" attached to it for the 3rd straight day. I love your approach to it. I know this is a necessary part of their development as boys, but it's so foreign to me since I'm a girl.


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