Should play fighting games be promoted in the early years?
Play fighting games are incredibly common in the early years. This type of play can sometimes be a sign of a safeguarding issue especially if this is out of character for the child. Therefore, it is best to observe this type of play and be aware of any issues that are identified during the play. This is not always the case and often this type of play is just found to be enjoyable by the children, and they are often re-enacting scenes from tv shows or their favourite superheroes. There is a lot of confusion over how is best to handle is this type of play and whether or not it should be allowed within early years setting. Often this type of play can start off in friendly games and interactions, however, can often lead to children getting too carried away in their play and hurting one another; sometimes accidently, sometimes on purpose.
These types of games do have some benefits such as
· providing a base for social interaction,
· supporting children’s communication and language skills,
· Imaginative play
· Highly engaging and also supports many of the characteristics of effective learning
· Supports gross motor skills and children start moving their bodies in different ways
· Gives children an opportunity to make sense of things around for example if they watch cartoons which involve elements of fighting such as superheroes
· Can encourage children to express themselves and how they feel
Bearing this in mind it could, therefore, be suggested that these types of games and play are not completely banned from an early years setting but instead tweaked and supported, so the play is safe and beneficial.
How best to support this type of play
· Golden Rules – Display the golden rules around your setting to act as a reminder for the children. These golden rules should all be positive behaviour based and include things such as ‘kind hands’ ‘kind feet’ ‘walking indoors’ ‘indoor voices’ etc. If the children are particularly focused on superheroes during their play, you could make these into superhero rules.
· Focus on the main interest – During this type of play are the children displaying a key interest such as jumping, shouting, running, superheroes, hiding under tables, etc.? If they follow these interests and redirect the play, for example, take the children outside and play running games, create obstacle courses where the children can jump, Have out den building resources for hiding, have some talking about real life superheroes or making superhero pictures
· Alter your role play area – Are the children who are engaging in fighting games interacting with the role play area at all or is this an area they completely avoid? If they are avoiding the role play area could it be changed into something else that interests them? There are some great role play ideas here if you need some inspiration.
· Outdoors – Do the children have enough access to the outdoors environment? Could the children be allowed to play these types of games if they wish outdoors if they follow the golden rules? Does this type of play only happen when the children are outside? Could the outdoor area be lacking in engaging resources?
· Small world – Could you introduce some small world figures that the children could play fight with? This would still engage the children and allow for language development without the risks of harming one another when they get carried away. These are also more suitable for playing in the indoors environment instead of children running around and play fighting indoors.
It is down to each setting how they view and tackle play fighting games, considering some of the above points could you find a way of managing this type of play?