Risk. Violence And Gun Play
What does it mean to take a risk?
When I was 7 year's old I would climb the conifer trees in my garden. I spent the summers before observing my friends climbing the same trees in their gardens and I would always climb 'to the third branch.' This was a rule from my mother - surprisingly! In my 7th year I broke all the rules and climbed to the top. I WAS ON TOP OF EVEREST! I couldn't believe how high I was! The first time I fell out of the tree, I landed with a branch between my legs and felt very strange for a few hours. I learned a LOT that summer and I'm actually pretty nifty at climbing trees now at 30.
We wrap children in cotton wool now to ensure that nothing happens whilst they're in our care. Settings are very concerned of the liability if a child is hurt. Some settings have zero tolerance policies towards climbing more than a step high. Some have triple signature policies for first aid or medicine. All of this is understandable in the climate of negligence and 'where there's blame there's a claim.'
We saw earlier that Boys develop stronger muscles (on average) than girls and are often more engaged with gross motor activities such as sports (or climbing!) They will also want to copy other male role models which they encounter in life or on TV. Many of these men will 'take risks' such as driving a car off a cliff, swinging from a vine or running into a burning building. None of these are things you'd envisage for your setting. However boys also need to be able to push their own physical boundaries and take risks which are proportionate to them.
A well managed environment should have risk assessments in place which 'reduce' NOT 'remove' risk so that injury can be managed and where accidents do happen, they can be a learning experience. Such as falling down a tree and smooshing your groin into a branch at 600mph! (I learned to not get hit there on that day!)
Violence and Gun play
Superhero play has become 'the new norm' in many settings. It seems that over the last few years, practitioners and school leaders have relaxed their Zero-tolerance policy towards this type of play. Why?
Could it be because boy's so often engage in this play and it can be controlled using rules such as 'we just pretend to hit!' or 'Superheroes are the good guys, they only hurt bad people.'
Anna's example above shows that children need to role play experiences in their lives to be able to understand it. The example above might be slightly concerning but it would not be one which we would halt. Take a look at Harry's example:
Harry had seen the anti-terrorist police on the news and these were the 'good guys' (just like superheroes). But his play was causing alarm to the practitioners.
Why do we allow children to play the role of superhero but not an anti-terrorist police officer?
Is it that superheroes are entirely fantastical and police are not?
As a practitioner, think about the language you're using with the children. Have this open discussion with SLT about whether gun play is tolerated and to what extent.
Many schools (even the more forward looking) still ban gun play, so it may be a long journey.
But a warning to you, if you ban the play it will still come through: