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Sharon Meers's picture

Yesterday, I got a message at work from my third child's nursery school: "Your son is making play weapons at school - light sabers, swords and shields. These are not appropriate for nursery school play. Please work with him to understand that these are not ok toys."

This is my third child, and second boy so I've been through this before. When my older son was in pre-school, one teacher told me his George Washington picture book was verboten -- he shouldn't bring this book to school because stories of war were not welcome in the classroom. (How this teacher explained why we're no longer a British colony, I just don't know.)

At our house, we've developed a pretty good arsenal. Sword fighting is a daily occurrence, as is wrestling, light saber fighting and even nerf guns. The kids love them, and all of the research I have done indicates that there is no harm in allowing these to be used in a "nice" way. Some of the research even shows that boys get demoralized when they are told that the toys they enjoy for their make believe play are "bad".

I am far more worried about girl cattiness in nursery school than I am boy make-believe weapon play. Those little boys who make guns out of bread: they seem to become CEOs of companies. Watching my older son play with water shooters in the pool with 10 other young boys shows me that they are learning to work together, form teams, develop strategy and importantly, have a really good time with each other. These are skills that should serve them well going forward. What types of activities do young girls do that work on these same skills?

I think schools should spend less energy criticizing boy play, and more energy helping girls to learn to participate. I would love my daughter to participate in sword fights with her friends, like my son does on play dates, rather than do art projects. I think it would be wonderful to watch a group of neighborhood girls stage a large water pistol engagement, rather than sit by the pool and chat. I believe these interactions help boys learn to relate to each other in a way that enables their success later on. I certainly wish I had learned to spar in sword fights - this could have been very useful in my first few years working in the corporate world.

Joanna Strober

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