Pen Portrait: Stephanie Long
In 2011 I established a sessional pre-school, based in a new-build church, in the village where I live. To further my knowledge and understanding of Early Years, in 2012 I embarked on a foundation degree in Early Years Playwork and Education, a distance learning course offered by Anglia Ruskin University. After completing this in 2015 I continued with my studies to complete a BA (Hons) Top Up in Early Childhood Studies through University Centre Doncaster, again as a distance learner. The last four years have been a journey of discovery, with challenges along the way as I juggle running a business, studying and home life (I am a wife and mother to 3 teenage boys), but I have encountered many supportive fellow students and tutors who have given me belief in my abilities. My love of academia look set to continue as I embark on my Master’s in Early Childhood Studies with University Centre Doncaster this year.
This action research was carried out on a small scale and took part in a private sessional pre-school. The purpose of this research was to find an answer to the question: What are practitioners attitudes towards ‘weapon play’ and the impact these have on the way that children are allowed to play?
It is hoped this study will provide the researcher, and other practitioners, with an insight into the impact that practitioners views can have on the way children choose to play. Although there has been much research around the topic of weapon play, and also how adults can play a huge role in children’s learning and development, the subject of whether practitioner’s views and beliefs can impact on how children choose to play appears to be under researched.
Weapon play is a very popular choice of play for children in the Early Years (Bryce-Clegg, 2013), and in particular within the setting where this research will be conducted. The setting is a small sessional pre-school, located in a village. The setting holds a Weapon Play Policy which states that the pre-school is committed to promoting and encouraging all aspects of children’s play and development. The policy outlines the outdoor ethos of the setting and states that children are able to use sticks, and other objects, for pretend weapons such as guns and swords. However, it does emphasise that this type of role play activity will always be ‘conducted in a controlled, safe environment with adult supervision at all times’. Regardless of the policy which is in place, practitioners in the setting appear to have diverse attitudes towards weapon play which causes the children to have inconsistent boundaries. This highlights that there is a large amount of confusion around the topic of weapon play and practitioners appear to be unsure as to whether they should be encouraging this type of play or disregarding it.
Research of literature around the subject of weapon play has highlighted three main factors which impact on children and their choice of play, particularly weapon play and superhero play. These are media, gender and practitioner’s responses when children play in this way. It is important to acknowledge that weapon play, also known as ‘war play’ or ‘superhero’ play, is a big part of a significant number of children’s choice of play (Bryce-Clegg, 2013).