Monday, November 10, 2014

I'm Just Really Curious

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the fact that our 4-5 year olds have engaged in very little superhero or princess play this year, usually hallmarks of the age. Even as Halloween approached, even as many of them prepared to dress as superheroes and princesses, I didn't notice an uptick in this classic sort of preschooler dramatic play, and it hasn't markedly changed since. Alongside, and probably as part of, this phenomenon there as been virtually no gun play.

In that earlier post, I speculatively linked this to our experiment in equipping our "third teacher," our environment, exclusively with what I've been calling "unscripted" costumes, but there's definitely something else going on with this group. Typically, by this point in the school year, we are deeply engaged in negotiating, and reminding one another about, a complex web of agreements about gun play, a category of play in which I include "wand play" as it's essentially the same thing. We would, for instance, be talking a lot about making sure those of us who don't want to be "shot" can say "stop" and be respected.

Maybe it's just timing. This year, what has been a 5's class, was converted into a 4-5's class, meaning we've lowered the average age of the children. It's quite possible that it's just a matter of time: maybe gun play simply emerges at Woodland Park at five, although I tend to think it's deeper than that.

I can't say that we've been entirely gun free at Woodland Park. A few of the boys have made guns from Legos or by sticking odds and ends together with our glue guns, and we did have a day when a couple of the girls were freezing people with their magic wands, but these have been isolated, one-off incidences, nothing like the sustained, day-after-day gun play from prior years.

I thought maybe we were seeing the beginning of it last week as we were using our "builder boards," and after creating a basic fort, a couple of the guys assembled an arsenal of what they were calling guns by attaching the boards side-by-side, projecting menacingly from the ramparts. Normally, when I discover that I'm the target of anything, I say, firmly, "I don't want to be shot," both as a statement of personal autonomy, but also by way of role modeling this stand-up-for-yourself behavior for children who, for whatever reason, don't want to be caught up in a gun fight. In this case, however, when the boys began boasting that they were shooting me, I instead teased them by pointing out that they couldn't aim their guns because they were fixed into place. All I had to do was step slightly to the side and "all your bullets miss me." 

Chagrined, they attempted to track me, but found it impossible to pivot their guns, so they instead pivoted their game, insisting that what they were really all about was using their guns as tracks for rolling our silver Chinese meditation balls, which then turned into a game of "catch" in which they would roll the balls out to the rest of us and we'd return them by rolling them under a gap in the walls.

One of three toilets in this fort

The following day, another fort went up and I was anticipating more guns, but instead they built toilets, a project that had them in stitches. This isn't the first time we've giggled about poop and pee and underpants and toilets. The potty humor is right on schedule, so where is the gun play? Is it something we're doing or is it just this particular group of kids? Maybe it's coming, but what if it doesn't? I'm not wishing for it, but I'm not wishing against it either. I'm just really curious.

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1 comment:

Helen said...

This might require a parent survey! I wonder if parents are becoming more conscious of the ramifications of violence from screen time? My brother and I had guns growing up in the 50s but very little screen time and certainly no real life influences. Our sons didn't have guns but used sticks on occasion, also very limited screen time (80s). Dad was strict about no pointing 'guns' at people.

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