I was horrified to read this weekend that Early Years teachers are being advised to allow boys to play games with toy weapons. Apparently, not doing so leaves boys likely to become uncreative and disconnected with their learning. Whilst I appreciate that children have different learning styles, preferences and needs, I do not think that encouraging them to wield toy weapons is more likely to make them learn.
I understand that the leader of the NUT has voiced his concerns over the idea that boys’ learning will be improved by allowing such play, stating that it is really giving in to gender stereotypes.
I am inclined to agree. When we come to that age-old discussion of Nature versus Nurture, I fall on the side of Nurture. I strongly feel that children become the sort of people we expect them to be and tell them they will be.
Take my 3½ year-old son, William, as an example. He has never come across any super hero cartoon character (his television watching is strictly controlled). Nor does he own any axes, guns or swords. I can, hand on heart, say that he hasn’t even ever picked up a stick and pretended to shoot with it. But he is still an imaginative boy who tells me all sorts of creative stories and who will sit for hours with his Lego fire station, talking to the firemen and telling them how to put out fires and rescue people. His play is no more loud or aggressive than his older sister’s. Of course, they both have their moments when they chase each other around endlessly whilst screaming and shouting, and they adore playing games in which I or their dad throw them about. However, they are both equally content to sit quietly and draw, read or listen to a story.
I really don’t feel that William’s imaginative, creative or any other development has been hindered by not being allowed to play aggressive games. On the contrary, he seems more confident and ready to learn than his sister was at his age.
My point is that, whilst imaginative play should be respected and encouraged, I do think that allowing aggressive games because “boys will be boys” is simply giving in to outdated stereotypes.