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How Do You Feel About War Play?

by Tania Cowling | May 13th, 2015 | Behavior, Elementary

toys (400x400)As a mother of two boys, I never let them play with toy guns, but yet these siblings seem to play war with water squirt toys and even sticks from the yard. As parents we tried to enforce that guns can harm people and are not toys. I think they understood the concept, but they still engaged in bang-bang play with their fantasy enemies with everything from pencils, twigs, and even broccoli stalks at the dinner table.

Pretend war play is not always inherently bad – your child isn’t going to grow up to be a hard criminal just because he packs a water squirt toy or dons a sword from Star Wars. Children, especially boys need to feel powerful in their fantasy world and simple war play provides this. “The trouble is that much of today’s war play revolves around media-linked themes and accessories”, explains Diane E. Levin, Ph.D., author of Who’s Calling the Shots? How to Respond Effectively to Children’s Fascination With War Play and War Toys. When children spend too much time in front of television watching war movies or episodes of Power Rangers, they are following scripts versus inventing their own creative play. Here are a few ideas to tone down war play at home and at school.

Have a variety of toys. In today’s world of Teenage Mutant Ninga Turtles and Power Rangers, it’s hard to ban your child from these popular characters, but you don’t have to buy the entire collection. Instead make sure your kids have other creative outlets to play with such as building sets, modeling clay, and sports equipment.

Cooperation among peers is a must. Engaging your child in team sports or board games helps to appeal to a child’s competitive nature, teaches social skills, how to take turns, following rules, and dealing with winning and losing.

Tone down pretend battles. If you see your child creating battles with his action figures, make sure to ask him if something like this has happened at school or with his friends. Suggest that his soldiers explore a jungle, scale a mountain, or compete in games instead of just engaging in battle.

Tame down the TV. Children shouldn’t watch violent shows on television, but never under estimate that some kid shows are innocent either. Spend television time with your child and intervene if the scenes get too violent. Ask your child if he can think of a way to solve the problem so no one gets hurt. Tell him outright that real guns and violence is very wrong.

Instill sensitivity to others. Teach your children to play appropriately with other children and in their homes. Some parents ban the use of war toys and violent play. Instill that play is supposed to be fun and never act out a scene where you are trying to hurt a friend.

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