We Don't Play with Guns Here: War, Weapon, and Superhero Play in the Early Years

We Don't Play with Guns Here: War, Weapon, and Superhero Play in the Early Years

We Don't Play with Guns Here: War, Weapon, and Superhero Play in the Early Years

We Don't Play with Guns Here: War, Weapon, and Superhero Play in the Early Years


A significant contribution to the continuing exploration of the issues surrounding the learning potential of young children's play. Holland's writing is engaging, her subject is of considerable interest, and her approach succeeds in challenging many of the taken-for-granted assumptions in several areas of the debate. Early childhood educators, those preparing to become early childhood educators, and those who accompany them on this journey will find much that is worthwhile and provocative in this book. Discourse

"This book will be a valuable support to all practitioners who do not enjoy 'policing' children's play themes." Nursery World

War, weapon and superhero play has been banned in many early childhood settings for over 30 years. This book explores the development and application of a zero tolerance approach through the eyes of children and practitioners.

The author challenges the key rationale for linking aggressive play themes to violent behaviour. She examines play where children are allowed to construct weapons and enact goodies/baddies and superhero scenarios with sensitive adult guidance, and explores the generally positive experiences of children and practitioners. Rather than reading this form of play as the beginning of the slippery slope towards anti-social behaviour, readers are invited to view it as an entry point to imaginative play and social development.

We don't play with guns here is a fascinating and insightful contribution to this area of much debate in the early childhood community. The book is key reading for early childhood practitioners, teachers, students, parents and policy makers.


War, weapon and superhero play is a controversial, under-researched and under-theorized aspect of children's play, which is rarely discussed in an open-minded way.

For approximately the past 30 years early years settings and primary schools in England have operated a zero tolerance approach to this area of play. This means that children are not allowed to bring manufactured toy weapons into settings, are not allowed to construct weapons from construction, technology or found materials, and are not allowed to enact scenarios associated with superhero, war or play-fighting. This ban is often extended to incorporate other forms of noisy, physically active play like chasing and running games. This area of play is almost exclusively associated with boys.

Support for this policy rests on a belief that there may be a connection between children's early involvement in aggressive play themes and the development of aggressive behaviour.

As a parent and early years practitioner I supported this approach to war, weapon and superhero play, believing it to be consistent with my feminist and pacifist principles, and I enforced this approach rigorously.

In the spring of 1998 two events sparked against each other to cast a different light on my personal and professional perspectives on this area of play. First, co-workers at the under-fives centre where I worked in inner London made me aware of the negative impact that my rigorous approach was having on one particular child and together we then started to observe how our collective prohibitive approach was affecting a small group of boys in our class who had a persistent interest in war, weapon and superhero play. No matter how rigorously we tried to outlaw this play some children would persist.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.