We are living in a time when clinging to the imagination of our children is more important than ever. So when I read about the preschool that reportedly banned imaginary superhero play in The Huffington Post, it made me wonder what is going on in the minds of the adults who created this policy.
So far this year we have quietly grieved for the children gunned down in Sandy Hook, CT by a complete stranger while they sat in their classrooms. We have grieved for the children and families who died or were injured during a bombing at a marathon in Boston. We have grieved for the children who parished during a massive tornado in Oklahoma City.
After each tragedy I envisioned the families who suffered such loss. I thought about the lost hugs, the lost laughter, the lost squeals of delight… the lost innocence.
The very innocence that allows preschoolers to lose themselves in a world of fantasy. A world where you can be the superhero one minute and a princess the next. A world where you are safe and free to explore and learn through pretend play. A world where imaginations are encouraged and fostered instead of deemed “dangerously overactive.”
According to an article in Psychology Today, theorists and researchers have identified the values of imaginative play as a vital component to the normal development of a child. Studies have demonstrated the importance of pretend play in children from ages 2 1/2 to six or seven years of age.
If there is ever a place for imaginative play it should be in the preschool classroom. The administration of the unnamed school should figure out how to foster and utilize this play instead of stifling or banning it altogether.
In my home-based daycare and preschool we do not frown on wearing costumes, flying, or saving each other from sharks and crocodiles hiding in the carpet. We love this kind of interaction and carve out special times for the children to engage in this kind of play. Do we allow wrestling or play fighting? No. Are we always mindful of the safety of the children? Of course.
But superhero play does not have to be violent. It is normal for three-year-old children to want to kick or jump on each other as part of the role play. This does not mean parents are raising violent and aggressive children. It also does not mean that parents are doing something wrong like exposing their children to violent television programming.
A quality preschool teacher should take the time to talk to the children, or better yet play with the children and demonstrate other ways. This is when the “fight the bad guys” part of the play is discouraged and instead children are asked to be superhero helpers who save people. Give the children tasks and maybe even put on a cape yourself to show them how real superheros can do it without the punching or karate chops to the head.
I understand that in a group setting there has to be limitations and safety must come first, but I take great issue with a place entrusted with the care and education of children blaming unruly behavior and mismanagement within a classroom on a child’s imagination. You see, a child’s imagination can never be dangerously overactive. The danger lies with the grown-up who tries to limit the imaginative spirit and character of a child.
How would you react if your child’s preschool program sent home that letter? Leave a comment below or join the discussion on the Tiny Steps Mommy Facebook page.