“Gun play and why children need it” – Rich and Brownlee

Diane Rich explains:

“The themes that children choose to play do not all involve nurses, mums and dads, princes and princesses. There are nasty things too: monsters, ghost, baddies and, inevitably, weapons of all sorts.” (Rich, p.1 – on my copy… but I’m not certain I have the original)

Children may demonstrate expertise, knowledge or experiences in their play which may sometimes shock adults, but they will only be able to play to the limits of their knowledge and experience. In their playing children give signals to practitioners and parents about what they know, how much they know, and what they need to know in order to make more sense of their world and their place in it. Children use play as a necessary tool for thinking, and some children will want to think much more about gun-related issues than others.” (p.3)

“My work with children and practitioners,” she writes, “leads me to believe that weapon and gun-related play has an irresistible lure for children. Most often, but not always,, these children are boys who are attracted helplessly to this play for five key reasons:

  • making guns is an achievable task
  • weapon play relates to early communication skills
  • major themes of children’s play are represented in weapon-related playing
  • running in big spaces, outside is a preferred play style
  • it is a universal language.” (p.3 italics in original)

When [children’s] play is not permitted, they lose out on developing skills as a player – and when this happens, they lose a whole range of routes to learning, to exploring their world through play and [-p.6] developing all the skills that play enables. Their cognitive capacity is reduced, and so is their commitment to learning as these negative messages are likely to affect their engagement in the world of education where their interests have been marginalised right from the off. Children who have their starting points for play curtailed at an early age may not achieve their potential because they do not feel positive about themselves as learners – and there must be some relation between this statement and the sliding achievement of boys in our schools.” (pp.5-6)

“When practitioners accept weapon-related play as a starting point for children’s learning they offer children the chance to play at what they need to investigate, in order to make sense of the world and their place in it. Practitioners will be opening up avenues to learning and, importantly, will enable children to develop the most powerful weaponry of all: the power of communication, the ability to tolerate others, to negotiate, listen and empathise, to work and function with others, to think things through and consider the effect of possible actions. All of these are learned in children’s play – and all children need to be armed with these essential life and future world skills.” (p.6)

In a similar vein to Rich, Brownlee states:
“Children who engage in gun play have guns in their lives. The guns are there either in two dimensions (guns around the home, or the family resides in a war zone), or in three dimensions (film, TV and computer games). If guns are not within children’s direct experience, guns will not – indeed cannot – be part of their play. Accordingly, gun play tells you more about the environment that the child resides in than about the child.” (Brownlee, p.38)

“…most adults and all marketing people have little imagination about play and think that the more realistic the toy the better it is for the child. Quite the contrary.” (Brownlee, p.39)

Refs.: Diane Rich (2003) Bang, Bang! Gun play, and why children need it. Early Education Summer, pp.(?)+ [I need to check this reference] Apparently this and other articles by Diane Rich can be downloaded from www.richlearningopportunities.co.uk

Pennie Brownlee (2008) ‘”Bang bang! You’re dead” – Pondering on guns in children’s play The First Years: Nga Tau Tuatahi. New Zealand Journal of Infant and Toddler Education 10(2), pp.38+


About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
This entry was posted in early years education, Gendering, social and political contexts, The effect of multimedia on children/childhood, Understanding Education and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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