Playing Army

The children in my daughter’s class, 3-5 year olds all, have been growing more and more familiar with things like armies, guns, and violence. The classroom is experiencing a lot of play involving mock-guns. One of the teachers created a transcript of the conversation she had with the kids, and it was interesting to hear what they are getting out of their parents, media, peers, and stories. I’ve left out most of the names, except for my daughter Erin. She’s been on the Internet before.

TEACHER handed out paper and put an assortment of crayons on the table.  As the children began to draw, TEACHER commented on the play she has seen around war and armies.

TEACHER asked, “What is an army.”

ERIN: “A little suit that you wear.  …pretends to be a knight, but they are not really a knight they are a person.  I heard a knight named Adrian.  A knight protects people from bad guys that try to kill the king and talk mean.”

CLASSMATE #1 offers to draw a gun.  Then he says, “That is what armies have.”

ERIN says that she is going to draw a knight and she does.

TEACHER asks CLASSMATE #1, “What do they do with a gun?”

CLASSMATE #1: “People walk down the street with guns to get food they really want.”

ERIN: “Because they are starving and can’t go to sleep.”

TEACHER: “What does starving mean?”

ERIN: “Starving means really hungry.”

CLASSMATE #1: “You get so tired.”

TEACHER: “What would happen if the people with guns had food?”

CLASSMATE #1: “If they had food, then they throw away the guns.”

CLASSMATE #2: “We could make soup at school.”

CLASSMATE #1: “We could make army soup.  It has mushed up stuff, mashed potatoes, carrots, broccoli and turnips, even turkey.”

THE GROUP talks about how people could get food if they do not have money to buy the food and they and their children are hungry.

CLASSMATE #1: “All the people that have money put money into the bank.  The people who don’t have money they could get some.  I am gonna rent a bank.”

CLASSMATE #2: “A super hero will come and buy food for the people.”

CLASSMATE #1: “There would be a bank in different cities.”

ERIN: “My house is gonna be a bank.  I will donate toys to Tillie.  I am about to be five.”

What do your kids think about the purpose of guns, armies, and banks? Are your kids engaging in simulated violence? Are they juxtaposing it with generosity like the kids in Erin’s class do?

I’m not the kind of parent who tries to keep images of violence far away from my kids. I have restricted much of the superhero stuff in the house as being too “punchy”, but someday my daughter and I will watch every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer together. With conversations among her classmates turning to starvation and protection through weaponry, that day may come sooner than I thought.

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