The Huffington Post recently reported that an unnamed preschool moved to ban superhero play because some children were getting hurt from their dangerously overactive imaginations. I humbly offer a solution to this intractable problem.
It has come to my attention over the past decade of working in early childhood that boys present a unique problem in the preschool setting. Active boys get into a wide variety of mischief, they play rough, they ram toy cars together to the point of breakage, and they insist on donning superhero capes and pretending they have imaginary powers. This can be a serious distraction from learning the important skills of decoding text, writing essays, and doing advanced arithmetic, which, as we all agree, are of paramount importance to the education of a 3-year old.
Possible solutions include prohibiting boys from interacting with one another at any time, removing all capes and other suggestive items from the dramatic play area, and eliminating outside time altogether, since that is where most of the rough-housing occurs. It’s hard work to extend superhero play to include powerful rescue themes instead of violent themes. It’s also a pain to allow boys plenty of space for kinesthetic, outdoor boisterous play. And who has time to improve boys’ emotional awareness of others? All these efforts complicate the daily schedule and require us to become more comfortable with high-energy boy play. The surest way to solve the boy problem is simply to ban boys from the preschool setting.
Which brings me to another great annoyance in preschool: the savage biter. Two-year-olds insist on chomping on each other, despite our best efforts to thwart this developmental stage. Teaching children alternative ways to express strong emotion, giving them oral self-soothing items, figuring out what triggers these biting incidents, and developing prevention strategies require thoughtful analysis and a deep understanding of child development, and may not change behavior overnight. I humbly offer that instead of expending a lot of effort on long-term strategies, we simply arm preschool teachers with duct tape. This versatile tool can fix nearly every broken toy, and can now serve a greater purpose–to eliminate all incidences of biting. The duct tape must be removed for snack or lunchtime, however, which can be burdensome, so perhaps we should just ban 2-year olds as well.
And then there are those bossy 4-year-old girls who insist on excluding their friends in a constant quest for more power. Common—not to mention rude and sassy—refrains include “You can’t come to my birthday party” and “I don’t want to play with you today.” Teaching children to speak respectfully to each other, consider the needs of another, and learn what it means to be a good friend are tiresome, time-consuming lessons that most likely will not be learned until elementary school or beyond. I suggest the only comprehensive solution to this exclusionary play problem is to ban 4-year-old girls from our preschool environment altogether.
Which leaves us with babies. Babies are demanding. They require additional work, since they cannot even do the simplest tasks for themselves. They also cry and are in constant need of diaper-changing, which can be a messy and thankless task. Paying attention to their cues, spending quality time on the floor getting to know them, and establishing a deep connection during play and all care routines are very exhausting and time-consuming processes. To solve this problem, we need to consider banning them, too.
I posit that once we’ve eliminated these different types of challenging children—and I’m sure you can think of additional categories of children to include in this universal ban—the preschool setting will be a much more pleasant place to work.
*With great respect for Jonathan Swift’s 1729 satirical essay, A Modest Proposal.