The Princess vs. The Superhero

teenage mutant ninja turtlesHmmm. My son’s childcare has a rule. No superhero play. Ok… I get it. They don’t want the boys fighting. But, is jumping around pretending to hiya and swing swords really that bad if it remains just that, pretend? If a child cannot handle the game without actually hitting, like the child who cannot share without hitting, then shouldn’t that child just sit out until they learn how to play by the rules?

Pre-mothering a boy, I would have wholeheartedly supported this no superhero rule. But now that I do have a 4 year old son, who absolutely loves the Ninja Turtles (it was Batman and Superman a year ago), I’m perplexed.  My son loves everything about the Ninja Turtles. He loves singing the theme song over and over. He loves that his Dad and I know the theme song from when we were kids and has learned to sing our version as well as the one for the new show.  He loves their names and the fact that they have nicknames.  He loves identifying how each one is different. He loves learning about where they live and what they eat. And, he’s actually gaining a pretty big vocabulary through this love…like hero, villain, sewer, and sensei.

Today after school, when I asked my son if any of his friends like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as much as he does  he answered, “Mom, no superheroes at school”. I had heard him say this before, but this time I had a different reaction. Today I asked, “Hey Don, do the girls play princesses at school?”, and without skipping a beat Don said, “oh, yes”. Hmmmm.

As the mother of a daughter too, I have a big problem with that. Now, I say this as my daughter is only 17 months old and yet to play pretend. But, even though she is still young, I do realize that she may be entirely into princesses and if she is, so be it. I’m not going to restrict her interests, just like I don’t restrict my son’s–I’ll discuss her interests with her and try to understand them, again, just like I do with my son.

So my point is this, if there is going to be princess play, then dear god, please let them also play superheroes…the boys and the girls.  If there is an new-disney-princess-lineup-rapunzel-disney-princess-18212648-1280-800all out ban on a type of character that children are into because of the potential for a child to get hurt, I would argue that princess play could also be deemed detrimental, maybe not in terms of physical hurt, but the themes of princess play are certainly questionable, and some argue, lead to long term hurt.

I guess I’m just frustrated that my son is getting the message that his love of Ninja Turtles is wrong while his classmates are getting an entirely different message that their love of princesses is totally ok.  Call me crazy (I know some people will) but I would much rather my kids–both of them– play superheroes than princesses! If they both grow up knowing that their power and strength should  be used for the greater good, fine by me. I’d much rather that then them seeking out someone or something to save them.

12 thoughts on “The Princess vs. The Superhero

  1. As a mom of two boys and a girl, my oldest just entering preschool (yea we are nuts) I find this so ridiculous , my son has the “no gun play” rule at school, which we have worked hard to explain that playing toy soldiers at home is fine (from the toy story movie) but its not appropriate at school. Kind of hard given our military history that we have to explain all the different reasons for “army men” and why we can’t pretend to be like daddy at school. As for princess play-I find it absurd that the schools push forward all the princess stuff. Are they trying to support Disney? Encouraging girls to be helpless and waiting for a prince?


  2. Gaaaah. There was a school in New Haven that took blocks out of the kindergarten classroom because students were throwing them and getting hurt. Same scenario! Teach appropriate play, don’t just nix the things that may possibly cause problems. So frustrating.


  3. 100% with you all. This is a stupid rule! At my kids’ daycare the rule is just no weapons (don’t pretend you have a gun or sword) otherwise go nuts (within reasonable limits…no hitting…blah blah blah…). Kids will always imitate what they are exposed to. It is part of how they process and learn. I have a son and a daughter. They share toys. They both love to cook in the kitchen. They both play with the doll house too. They also love Kung Fu Panda. I think the Ban does a disservice to the kids. Let them be who they are and pretend play.


  4. I am all for policies that promote non-violence (as my daughter’s preschool refers to it). Why can’t boys play house? Why can’t they build? Why can’t they invent a new pretend game that is peaceful and cooperative? Who’s to say that all girls actually “play” princess? When my girls put on a dress-up dress, it’s all about the outfit. Then they go and play “hardware store.” I think we need to try and understand where this policy comes from. Battles don’t help the kids learn to cooperate. They are a precursor to someone getting carried away and accidentally (or purposefully) hurting someone. Not all the time of course. As a teacher I don’t let the kids build weapons. Someone always gets poked or shot at without this rule. At recess they can’t tackle each other, but chasing tag games are fine. Physical play does not have to be hindered if superheroes are saved for home. Cowabunga!


  5. I agree with you and all the commenters here. Ridiculous policy. The policy should be “no hitting,” not banning imaginative play that encourages physical movement. Ugh. Definitely talk to the people in charge at the daycare.


  6. Wow! I am sorry, but that is an insane policy! The bigger picture, in my opinion, is that it sounds like your daycare provider would like ALL of the children sitting down doing imaginative play, rather than allowing them physical play. Maybe that’s not the case, but either way, boys and girls express themselves differently, and should be allowed to play as they wish, so long as EVERYONE uses self control. Good luck – sounds like you are preparing yourself for an interesting conversation!


  7. Pardon me, but I think this has got to be one of the STUPIDEST rules I’ve ever heard! Talk about squashing their nature because of fear that “something” may happen! I’m raising three ninjas myself and can’t even IMAGINE how they’d pretend for a moment not to be interested in this! And I think there is A LOT to learn from such play ~ like what is acceptable and what is not. It’s their nature to play-fight! Bears do it, foxes do it, dogs do it! UGH!!! Dude, I’m soooo with you on this one and I really hope you can help them see how idiotic and short-sighted this is!!!


  8. This issue fires me up. As a mom of two boys I couldn’t agree with you more. It drives me insane the double standards that exist for little boys (i.e. no superhero play – many schools have this) and the subtle ways society puts little boys down with “GIRL POWER” or “GIRLS RULE” shirts but no “BOY POWER” equivalents. We as parents need to figure out how to teach the equality as do the schools. I’m fired up right along with you.


  9. Wow I had no idea this was a policy anywhere. I agree with you 100% – if other types of imaginary play are allowed, like princess dress up, children that are more interested in super heroes should be allowed to play too. And like you said, if they don’t follow the rules and do hit or kick, then they wouldn’t be able to play anymore. Interesting topic Jillian! Let us know what happens if you speak with them further as Patty suggested.


  10. I love the ninja turtles and now I have the theme song in my head 🙂 Have you considered talking to the school about the no superhero play rule? It seems like you feel somewhat strongly about this and it can’t hurt to ask. Superheroes don’t necessarily equate to violence and I think you have some good points. Good luck!


    1. Patty–thanks for the comment and support. I didn’t realize how fired up it made me until last night and the I wrote the blog. I never want to be that parent who complains to their kids teachers, but in this case, I think you’re right. I think I’m going to need to have a conversation. Otherwise, it’s just going to continue to eat at me.


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