Superheroes, Weapon Play and a Giveaway

abc doesBoys Learning, Child Initiated Learning, Role Play, Talk, Weapon and Superhero Play226 Comments

Last month was all about Superheroes for me. It is not that I developed an overriding urge to wear my underpants over my trousers (although it has been known!). I just ended up doing a lot of talking, writing and idea sharing around the positive impact of Superhero and Weapon play for children in Early Years.


March saw the official release of ‘Creative Role Play in the Early Years’ in which I have outlined my thoughts on what makes really effective role play work and why. As Superhero and Weapon play does take up a considerable amount of a lot of children’s role play time, there is a section in the book that explores the reasons behind why children play in that way and what you can do to enhance it rather than try to eradicate it (which never works!).


I have been writing a series of articles for Early Years Educator Magazine over the past year and this month was all about that Superhero and gun obsession that for some children, seems to punctuate every session of Continuous Provision and free play.


Good role play of any sort, allows children to explore questions and emotions that they encounter in every day life in a controlled environment and a safe context. They can explore what is possible and, equally as importantly, what is impossible. Exploring what is risky and dangerous through play is essential if we want our children to be able to acknowledge and accept the limits of reality.

There is a huge element of emotional exploration that goes on during Superhero and weapon play. Through power struggle and combat children can put themselves into semi-real situations that allow them to experience and combat negative emotions.


As adults we tend to me far more literal in our interpretations of children’s Superhero and weapon play, so when we see play fighting we see violence and aggression as the main catalysts for the play, which is rarely the case. I am not saying that play fighting doesn’t sometimes turn into actual aggression, but that was not the intention when the play started out. If it was then it wouldn’t be play, it would just be a fight!

By it’s very nature this sort of play involves struggle, chase, competition, noise! It is often adrenalin fueled play, there is a high level of thrill for the children taking part so it will be fast and loud. We cannot penalise children for that. If we accept that this sort of play is going to take place then we need to make provision for it, both inside and out, and make sure that the whole team have clear expectations about what is acceptable and what isn’t.


In cultures where they do not have guns, children still engage this this type of play only their guns are replaced with spears, bows and arrows. It is the same symbolism.

Is there any difference between children playing ‘robbers’ and pointing guns at each other and children playing ‘Harry Potter’ or ‘Fairies’ and pointing their wands to cast spells and kill each other? Does it feel better because it is not a gun? Surely the end result is the same thing – power. It is just that the symbolism is more acceptable to adults.

Harry_potter_1Courtesy of Warner Bros.

The question that I always ask myself is: when our children are engaged in gun play, are they practising to become a man with a gun or are they just exploring emotions such as control, risk and a sense of power?

Lots of our children’s essential emotional connections, consolidation and development can be made through fantasy play. The more opportunity they get to rehearse them, the more proficient they will get at managing them.

EY04172_2_smallSuperhero Dress Up Set 2  – TTS

Through Superhero and weapon type role play children can learn to manage their own feelings by displacing them. They can make things turn out as they want them to, reinvent the truth and explore other possible outcomes that wouldn’t be possible in ‘real’ life where there is only one.


Wrestling, chasing, play fighting all help children to experience ‘safe’ danger assess risk and take appropriate action. As a species we are ‘hunter gatherers’. Much of the way that children play is grounded in instinct and an innate desire to hone our survival skills. Our experience of current culture just dressed them differently from our days in the cave!

Most often, but not always, these children are boys who are attracted helplessly to this play for five key reasons:

  • making guns is an easily achievable task

  • weapon play relates to early communications skills
  • major themes of children’s play are represented in weapon-related playing

  • running in big spaces, outside is a preferred play style

  • it is a universal language that requires no language.

If you want to read more about this kind of play and what you can do to support it then get your hands on a copy of this month’s EYE and/or enter the Giveaway below.

So, what am I giving away in this month? Well…

The lovely people at TTS have given me five sets of superhero figures to give away.


These are miniature, generic Superhero figures that would be a great enhancement to your Small World and other areas.


I am also going to throw in five copies of ‘Creative Role Play in the Early Years’ for good measure.

PicMonkey Collage

This of course means that this month there will be FIVE winners (I know, the excitement is unbearable).

All you have to do to stand a chance of winning a set of figures and a book is:

Leave a comment on this blog post and/or

Leave a comment on the ABC Does Facebook page and/or

Tweet me about the Giveaway @ABCDoes

All comments and tweets must be received by noon on Saturday 12th Aril 2014

FIVE winners will be drawn by random number generator and the lucky recipients will be informed via the method/s that they entered the Giveaway.

Good Luck!

Before I go, just a quick conferences update

It had been really good to see all of you that have managed to make it along to an ABC Does conference. As most of the current dates have sold out, next weekend I will be posting the dates for the next lot.

Alongside new dates for ‘Excellence in Early Years‘ and ‘From Mark Maker to Writer‘, I am also running two new ones. 

‘Heads Up’  – specifically for Head teachers, Senior Leaders and Governors, looking at attainment and best practice in EYFS. How it works, tracking high level attainment in and out of direct teaching, auditing your provision for best outcomes for children, being ‘Ofsted ready’ and lots more.

‘Transition – No Space, No Staff, No Stuff!’ – to make sure that our lovely Year One teachers are not left out, a course that really gets to the bottom of how transition into KS1 can work effectively, how to plan for it, what it looks like and how to maintain levels of attainment for both EYFS and KS1 children.

Look out for details on the ‘conferences’ page of the blog.

For those of you who broke up yesterday – have a lovely Easter holiday. For those of you (like me) who have got another week to go – just keep thinking about the chocolate and it will be Friday before you know it!


226 Comments on “Superheroes, Weapon Play and a Giveaway”

  1. The children I work with have decided after Easter they will be turning the role play area into a Superhero HQ to go with our topic ‘Imagine a world’ These figures would be a fantastic addition to our small world.

  2. I am planning Superhero week as I type. Was very interested in your blog and your thoughts on weapon play have eased my mind slightly.

  3. I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of children these resources would provide. We’re beginning to turn the tide with ‘weapons’ and are keen to get those children on board…both boys and girls alike. I can’t begin to tell you what a difference your advice has been! Thanks again Alistair!

  4. Our children have asked for more superhero role play and we’re in the stages of planning. This is so timely and will be an invaluable help for us!!

  5. i have just been introduced to this website by my employer. i love the laminating pouch ideas and look forward to making them and using them with the children i work with. i will continue to read on for more amazing ideas. thanks for impetus to continue helping our next generations to think and increase their understanding of the world around them.

  6. We will be doing Superheroes after half term. Does anyone have any plans or resources for a Reception class?

  7. Am reading your website as am about to embark on a mixed phased interview. Thanks for all the great advice. You are a superhero!

  8. My kids would love these…they just started talking about superheroes yesterday, so we were going to start an interest after Easter… These would be fab!

  9. ABC these look fantastic! I am truly inspired after attending you conference last month and cannot wait to put your ideas into action within our setting. And guess what? We are using superheroes to spark the boys interest so we would love to have a chance of winning your fab goodies. Thank you.
    S Johnson

  10. We are just about to start a super hero topic. I am getting fed up of having to change my small world people into cowboys, space people and American native Indians. Real superheroes with special powers would really enhance our topic. I am really interested in providing children the opportunities to role play fighting and building weapons. I have always said no to guns in the past but can’t wait to give it a go! Thank you for all your thought provoking ideas!

  11. I started teaching when the awful occurrences at Dunblaine were still fresh in everyone’s memory, and the thought of guns, or any other weapons, around small children just felt very wrong. I think that I have been carrying these feelings around for a long time. Reading your blog makes me realise that it really isn’t all about hurting and killing and now I want to read more.
    Thanks for broadening my outlook, Alistair!

  12. Meeting you at one of your conferences recently really inspired me to reconsider my attitude to enhanced provision and role play (particularly for boys). When we cover the Superhero topic I find our small world is really lacking so these figures would be great and your book will inform me how to do it right!

  13. As a peripatetic nursery teacher, these Superheroes would be a great addition to my resource kit, I have lots of Superhero pre schoolers! Our Curriculum for Excellence here in Scotland lends itself beautifully to all of your great ideas, I love passing them on to the staff. Thank you.

  14. This sounds exactly like my class! I have 19 boys who love nothing more than to play with guns and swords so this half term we are just going with it. These would be perfect!

  15. A very interesting blog and a topic which is a daily struggle fighting .Need to change the mindset of our seniors!That said I like anything which is free !

  16. I would love to have those superheroes in my classroom! It would be a great addition to our small world area and the kids will love it!

  17. What an inspiring article and super giveaway! I’d love to explore this theme further with the small superheroes in Reception or Year One!

  18. My children love superheroes! This article is very useful and i love reading all your articles and putting the ideas into my classroom !

  19. I would love this to support my dissertation which is looking at the positive impact ‘Superhero Play’ has on the language and communication within an early years setting. My rationale behind this choice is that I have introduced Superhero Play at lunchtime and it has been a great success and supported the less able and EAL children to play confidently and I therefore feel that it would be beneficial in an early years environment to help children who find talking and communicating challenging. I have just finished my role play area focusing on ‘Superheroes’ which is a breakthrough in itself as this is not something the setting would usually support.

  20. I read with interest your article on superhero/gun play. With 20 boys in my class you can imagine a lot of gun superhero play goes on! As a staff team we have tried to embrace it – adding dressing up, props etc. to support play and recording children’s narratives. Also discussing with the children basic rules to keep everyone safe and happy. Its interesting which objects around the classroom are used for makeshift weapons – the wooden and foam numerals are often the resource of choice particularly number 7. And we thought they were going to stick pegs in them and put them in order!

  21. Fantastic as always! We would love the mini superheroes in the super spider class and I would love the latest book to complete my collection!

  22. I have a very special group of boys that would love these super heroes and benefit from enhancing their superhero play

  23. Superheroes – a great incentive to get boys writing – these would be a great addition to our classroom!

  24. These figures are great. The boys and girls would love them. The children love building mazes and games for the Lego men. How exciting if they could now construct for actual superheroes!
    A copy of your book would also be invaluable. Great article and blog! Thank you!

  25. Just what I needed. Have logged on for the first time as am wondering what t do with and he t extend that group of boys playing sure heroes in the garden, play fighting and chancing and shouting at each other. Hoping to get some tips from your book .

  26. Had already spotted these on TTS would be great to have a set for my children. A copy of the book would be just perfect to help my staff engage and understand the why and how.

  27. Definitely food for thought. Have you thought about writing a book for parents Alistair? So many times I read your articles and think some of our parents would be interested in your ideas. The superhero/warrior play is definitely something that a lot of parents are worried about so a positive slant could be good to share with them.

  28. What a SUPER giveaway. I have a boy heavy mixed Reception/Year 1 class and most of their play is Superhero based. They would be so excited to see these superhero characters in the classroom. I have everything crossed in the hope I may be a recipient….P.S. love the blog and tell everyone about it!

  29. Wow! what a fabulous resource. We would love these to enhance our superhero/everyday hero small world.

  30. The children in our setting LOVE small world play and superheroes. We have just planted a small world garden in our outdoor area and the children have been making bridges and obstacles for our Happyland characters. These superheroes look so much more appealing (and a lot less plastic!). We would love to win them.

  31. Yes please. We have super hero crazy boys in our setting who would love to get their hands on these.

  32. I am trying to educate my fellow colleagues to embrace this…zoning into the children’s specific needs and interests. Amazing resources and very versatile.

  33. This book would not only enhance the childrens play but also inform the practitioners of the benefits of such play.

  34. We’re just about to introduce our ‘Superhero and Weapon play’ policy into our school (for staff as well as parents), so we’d love these little characters…and books! Fingers crossed!

  35. These look lots of fun! i know a lot of little people who would have great fun with these! i also know lots of big people that would enjoy looking at your book! (I’m sure the big people would like the figures too!)

  36. I love developing creative role play areas. The children love our deconstructed role play area at the moment. Would love to win your book and also the small world Superhero people.

  37. The children in our setting use weapon play and superheroes all the time it would be a great help to have these resources :0)

  38. My children would love these figures and the book looks inspiring as ever. Please please please 🙂

  39. We have just finished a topic on superheroes,much to the TA’s horror, but they really loved it, engaged all the boys in much more constructive play, introducing a story and rescue then linked to real life heroes! absolutely brilliant,they would love this!

  40. Our children at preschool would love these ,and the book would be fab for us all to read and learn from , practitioners are so used to telling the boys not to run and not to play guns and fighting ,but this may just show people the benefits of this play .especially with the big group of boys we have this year .

  41. Would love to win them – they are much better for imagination than the commercial superheroes figures…..I think one may even bare a resemblance to our Early Years co-ordinator !

  42. They’re fab Alistair and would really enhance our role play which is playing a key role after our Gap’s Analysis!

  43. I had to leave a comment. I am a regular reader of your blog. Your ideas are inspirational and our setting is gradually transforming. Our children would love these, fingers crossed.

  44. I really want to embrace superhero play but struggle to communicate how it should be appreciated with my team- please please pick me!!

  45. Great blog. We have just embraced Superheroes and it has proven very worthwhile! The figures would really help us extend our children’s imagination, language and role play.

  46. Great Blog, superhero play is always an issue with staff members, children see so much on the tv, ipad etc they are only role-playing their world, loved your comparison with Harry Potter and wands, would like an opportunity to win these resources for my setting

  47. These look amazing! There’s such limited stuff available in so many settings to get boys interested in this small world type of role playing that these would be a fantastic asset!

  48. These would be perfect for my class … and typically some of my boys. I found your article on superhero play extremely interesting as we currently have an ethos of no guns/swords/super hero play etc and we are working along a pirate theme at the moment! Doh! After attending your conference on Tuesday you have inspired me to make some changes. Thank you!!!

  49. Please please please! One of our next steps is enhancing our role play provision these would be much loved by our littlies! Thank you

  50. These resources would really help my campaign to change other adults in our school’s understanding of superhero play and help them embrace it and work with it rather than ban it! Fingers crossed

  51. These would be fab to share with all my pre school practitioners that I visit during my day to,day job as an EYFS advisor. Discussions happen most days around superhero/weapon play. Thanks in advance!!

  52. Yes please to the book and superheroes. I need some help with role play.
    Now I’m off to try and make dinosaur eggs 🙂

  53. These superheroes would be a fab addition to our small world box. My boys (and some girls) would love these. I’m hoping to have a superhero and weapon play policy introduced into our setting to stop others saying ‘I hope that isn’t a gun’

  54. Just about to do Super Heroes and my children would really love these! I would really like the book too! It would be a welcome addition to my other one on mark-making!

  55. Love, love, love these! I can imagine many excited children wanting to get their hands on these. Loads of different uses for them. The new book is on my birthday wish list too!

  56. Absolutely fabulous. We are doing Superheroes all next term. These small world characters are amazing and would fit perfectly into our Foundation Stage.
    I am so looking forward to the children’s reactions to being Superheroes every day.

  57. Have a lot of lively superhero play in our setting, they would really benefit from these lovely small world superheroes

  58. Our nursery really loved the superhero week we had last half term and it is still a major part of their play. Amazing how an upside down table and some tyres became a bat mobil and my favourite image still has to be one of our most active boys tangled in a mass of wool from the Spider-Man web to the point we had to cut him out – still grinning and insisting he could catch the ‘baddie’

  59. Ah amazing! I have been really trying to get my boss to understand why boys need to be allowed to play guns… To no avail! Hopefully this will help! I would love this prize!

  60. Hi, we would absolutely love these to enhance our superhero play. We have a lot of boys in our reception cohort this year and I know these would be very popular. Fingers croased 🙂

  61. Desperate for this input!! We are largely an EAL nursery and the children struggle to express themselves. I feel these would help us all. Also I’m not proud to say it but our role play is currently our weakest point. Please help us.

  62. The children in our class would love these… and I would love the book! Thanks for a great article.

  63. These would go down a storm with our children at school!!
    Looking forward to attending your training next month in Birmingham

  64. It would be fantastic to win these figures. My class would love them, we have the whole Marvel universe coming to play at the moment and the book will be invaluable when sharing and developing ideas for role play.

  65. I am sooo pleased to see this aspect of boys play highlighted and developed positively! Having two boys of my own and a younger daughter I drastically changed my view of play with weapons and fighting as soon as I realised castle visits and toy pirate ships could not be part of their experiences without. We had a full armoury and a trampoline that still doubles as a wrestling ring ( with full light/ music effects as their ICT skills have developed). I quickly realised this was how they were developing self control amongst many other positive skills! I have been exasperated working with staff at work constantly banning ‘guns’ and play fighting and have felt as though I was swimming against the tide. Your articles really back up my own view and give fabulous advice on how to use this to enhance provision and raise attainment. So well timed as my non-mark making boys have recently all morphed into ‘Magneto’ and ‘Iron man’!

  66. Would love to win these. I have 3 boys in my class who are obsessed with ninja turtles and power rangers and I find it really difficult to decide how far to let them go with their ‘fighting’.

  67. I love reading your books, so many good ideas that you can put into practice.

  68. I have battled with this idea of guns for a long time – if you deny the kids the gun, they will use a stick, their fingers or even a carrot! Whatever is handy! Thank you for your perspective. And yes, please, our kidlets would love to set up their play with those figures.

  69. Go go Underpants Man. Thanks for a great article again, if only our recent inspector had looked at this first. She demanded to scrutinise my planning (objective led and really thorough!) and see why the boys were running around chasing each other pretending to have a battle, how could I prove they were making progress. Sadly I was so flummoxed by her negative attitude that I didn’t respond with the justification that she needed and she was able to flounce off having put me well and truly in my place. Grrr…anyway reading this (and the opportunity to gain resources I haven’t paid for), has restored my faith. Thanks ABC.

  70. Some budding superheroes would be delighted with the toys but benefit even more from some well informed teachers who can understand the superhero play properly!

  71. My little reception class would love this , my girlies are really into role play and using their imaginations and I have 21 boys who would love this!!!!

  72. My children love the story of Charlie’ missing superhero underpants and thoroughly enjoyed our superhero topic which I will repeat next year!!!

  73. Wow, just what I’m looking for as an enhancement and provocation for the children in my reception class.

  74. Fantastic article which I have shared, one parent has already thanked me for giving her a greater understanding of this type of play as it has been something that worries her! Would love this fantastic resource. Will be investing in a copy of EYE as well! Got fingers and everything else crossed.

  75. Wow my EY’s setting would love these. I have lots of super hero loving boys in my reception class and even more in our pre-school.
    Your vacant to engaged book has made such a difference to our setting!

  76. We’re just approaching the end of our superheroes topic which the children loved. Unfortunately we didn’t have any of these but they would be great for the next time! Great article to share 🙂

  77. The children in our Early years would love these figures to help with their imaginative super hero play. Only the other day our headmistress comment why is it boys always have to have some kind of weapon in their hand? Because their saving the world from an alien force was the answer.

  78. This article has been one of the most relevant to me as I have a core group of boys who love nothing more than racing around and firing guns at each other. Although I do not stop this form of play, it has not been something that I felt comfortable with and I have told the boys that I don’t want them to pretend to shoot me. Reading this article has made me realise that I need to look at the wider learning potential of this play, and it is clear that I have been missing a trick. It could be tapped into as a powerful way of improving the communication skills of one of my reluctant boys aswell. I think that we will be staring with superheroes next half term as a result, so pretty please choose us to win the prize! Thank you!

  79. Great article, whilst doing Castles and Knights we got lots of comments from non FS staff about the sword play, they just see aggression.Think I will share this with them, thanks 🙂

  80. We have superheroes in some form or other most weeks and these would really add to the experiences please

  81. My foundation class would absolutely love these superheroes!! And I bet the book is amazing as are all of your oyhers, I’m currently reading ‘continuos provision in the Early years and have gained some fantastic ideas from it!!

  82. My class would love this. My girls love superheroes just as much as the lads. We have a dress up box of different costumes and winning this prize would be a fabulous enhancement. Fingers crossed.
    Lisa Warner

  83. Would love to get my hands on all these superhero resources! I was looking at those small world figures this week! Love them! Feeling lucky! Ann smith love your idea!

  84. We’ve had great fun being superheroes this half term. These would add great fun to our resources as I think the theme will roll on and on

  85. We love being superheroes and had a fabulous time last term, but new and fresh ideas are always welcome.

  86. We’ve just finished our superhero topic. We created our own class super hero ‘MEGABOY!’ Megaboy could fly, he had super hearing and he shot sleep bombs at the baddies to send them to sleep. My children would love these little figures for our small world area!

  87. Boys boys boys….in my setting the role of the superhero has been used to manage and support behaviour and feelings positively particularly with boys.These little superheroes would be a fantastic addition to our character box which contains allsorts from Peppa Pig to Power Rangers!

  88. These figures would be perfect for our setting at the moment as the topic of superheroes and play fighting has just be raised by a parent. I showed her your article in EYE!

  89. Superhero play a constant in our Nursery school with both boys and girls. They would love these! Great blog. It will really help to explain this type of play to parents volunteers and support staff.

  90. love it..We are at the start of the journey as a staff team to accept gun play (one of our teachers used to work in Dumblane) Would love your book to support us.

  91. I have a whole bunch of superheroes at my Pre-school who would love these. I’m always looking for exciting new roleplay ideas too.

  92. Once again a fantastic blog backed up by knowledge of children. Yes please – we would love these in our boy heavy reception class! Happy Easter.

  93. My class are obsessed with superheroes! I bought some tacky power ranger style figures from pound land the other week but they broke so quickly! These wooden superheroes would be amazing for my provision 🙂

  94. I NEED to get these. We have a group of boys who everyday play superheros and play gun fighting, and coming from Northern Ireland gun play is something all adults struggle with. Really need to read your article in full to be able to advance the children’s play and change the mindsets of those who have a fear of this play! Of course the wee figurines would be brilliant too! 🙂 thank you for this article. Michelle Spence

  95. We have been focussing on superheroes this term! It’s amazing how engaged the children are when working as a team to fight off imaginary monsters!!!

  96. My children would love these in my class. They would really enhance my superhero topic that I am doing next term.

  97. We needs Superheroes! And underpants add a whole new choice to sequencing in dressing yourself! I can feel an idea for instructional writing coming on!

  98. This would be a fab addition to our small world. I have only 10 boys and 20 girls in my class and they are all very much into super heroes we are trying to foster it by linking to the Lego movie but the more resources the better.

  99. Superheroes is a great interest for early years, also just done a term on this… Was great, these would really add something!!

  100. We would love these to enhance our role play especially as we are developing role play in years One and Two as well as EYFS

  101. Yes please! Superheros are a fab topic to really inspire imagination & lots of charging about outside

  102. Have just finished a superhero topic with my Reception class, which they loved, especially with the introduction of a brand new super villain, Crazy Cat! This would be such a great addition to the resources.

  103. I really want these for my class. ……the children would love them almost as much as me!!!!!

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