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How Do Little Boys Play?
Little Boyphoto © 2010 insane gal | more info (via: Wylio)

I'm taking the summer more slowly, so I've asked a few friends to guest post. And I thought that it might be a good time to talk about boys, because I'm only raising girls. And I know most of you, dear readers, also have sons.

I saw a post recently by Shelly Roberts, and I asked if I could just reprint it here and then ask you all what you think. Shelly writes:

As a momma of three sons, I care a lot about little boys. Not just "little" boys though; I care even more about who they become as they near adulthood. What I've concluded over the years is that it matters what happens in the early years.

Recently we had a little boy over for the day. And it really got me thinking: "What are little boys {being} made of today?".
It started out simple. I peered outside to be sure all was well and saw the little boy playing with my little girl. Seeing their arms swinging through the air made me do a "double-take". They obviously weren't "fighting", but rather "playing". So I inquired: "What are you doing?". 

"Playing Star Wars", was the answer. 

HUH?, I thought. So the mean 'old fashioned/uncool' mom in me said:  "Don't play Star Wars". 
The little guy says: "How about Indiana Jones???". HUH? How does one play Indiana Jones, anyway? My kids haven't even seen the movie. "Nope", was my answer. 

"How about Batman!?". My heart kinda broke inside. It was obvious that is all the little boy even thought of to play. Finally I said: "How about play catch or tag?"

My mind drifted back to my years of raising little boys. How is it that we've drifted so far from "real life" play? Why is it that we have a growing culture of young men that often don't know how to relate to society and engage in meaningful relationships and be prepared to hold down jobs and care for their families? Is this coincidence? I'm not 100% sure. REAL LIFE calls for men who are prepared to WORK HARD to provide for their families ... not just be immersed in video games, movies and an imaginary world.

What happened to little boys digging in the dirt and making pretend forts and playing for hours with a pile of matchbox cars or a fun train set?

I'm not saying that everything about the above examples are bad, but I am saying that what I see all too often is really alarming. Our world is in need of little boys to grow up to know how to work hard and help to care for those around them. We need strong leaders who are grounded in truth with a heart of compassion for the hurting. We need men who will stand for justice and who take responsibility for their actions. We need men who are not afraid to sweat while still having a servant heart to tend to a crying baby when needed.

Moms of little boys ... I would love to hear from you. What are some ways you are cultivating these things in your little men? What are YOUR little boys {being} made of?

{photo compliments of a couple little boys that live down the road}

One day it'll all be over and you'll be sending them out in the big world. Will they be ready to embrace real life and not just a fantasy?

What do you think? Have you encountered the things Shelly has? What do your boys play? And how does play impact them? Let me know!

Shelly Roberts is a Christian speaker who blogs at Encouraging Family. You can also find her on Facebook!

At 9:54 AM , Blogger The Quantum Housewife said…

Interesting post, but I think the author should lighten up. I grew up playing Star Wars nonstop. Two other facts: I am a girl (I have 2 brothers) and it was the 1970's (Star Wars came out in 1976). And when the Atari come out, we played it constantly. So did my husband. Now we are perfectly normal, productive, responsible, Christian members of society, and have a beautiful family. My 3 kids love to play Star Wars, too, and 2 of them are girls.
And if you think about it, before Star Wars kids played Superman, or the Lone Ranger, or Flash Gordon. And how about Cowboys and Indians? That was hardly rooted in reality after 1890, and yet kids have played it for generations since then. Children have always lived in a world that included fantasy- play is how they learn to be adults. Another point, if kids today should play in ways that imitate real life, then by that logic, they SHOULD spend all day on the computer, since so many jobs require a technical expertise that comes with the use of electronics. Personally, I would rather my kids be balanced between outdoors, imaginative play, books, and, yes, screentime (games and tv). Balance is the key.
Don't give up on this generation too quickly. You'll find yourself unable to relate, and then unable to minister to them.


At 10:03 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

Interesting points, Quantum Housewife! I remember playing stuff like that as a kid, too.

I do think Shelly has a point, though, in that what was traditionally "boy" play was more geared towards building things or creating things, and perhaps we've lost something important in that. I do think there's value in building forts or sand castles or things like that, whether you're a girl or a boy. And often it seems that children aren't able to play anything EXCEPT what they see on a screen.

So I think you're right--it's balance. But part of that balance is building things, too!


At 11:46 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Just a mom of girls here, but I don't see the problem with playing make-believe.

My little girl likes to pretend Dora the Explorer right now. Not exactly "real life" play. But I think it is good and think it would actually be harmful if I directed her play.

Just my 2 cents.

Nurse Bee


At 11:58 AM , Blogger Lea said…

Very interesting. I think what is more damaging to our boys though is not letting them play "boy" things. So many try to stop boys from climbing, jumping, pretend fighting, pretend & real hunting, etc...

Many boys are not allowed to be boys. They aren't allowed to play in way that they are protecting, hunting/gathering or being "Men". Many times we tell them to play something quiet or sit still.

God didn't create boys to be like little girls. He created them to become men who protect, hunt, provide, work hard & love. In society today we want our little boys to sit quietly, play quiet games & then wonder where all the real men have gone when these boys grow up.


At 12:39 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I think kids have always played the stories they have heard. So if they hear about cowboys and indians they play that. If they hear (or see) Star Wars they play that. If you listen carefully to their games, kids do not usually follow a script. They may claim the Star Wars characters as their own but they are still being imaginative and coming up with their own scenarios and situations. Wat worries me is when they forget how to run around and play anything and just ant their handheld games or to talk endlessly about which Pokemon cards they own.


At 12:43 PM , Blogger Sheila said…

You're right, Lea, God didn't create boys to be girls. I do think boys should get to play "boy" games--even if that involves light sabres!

But I also think we should encourage active type games, and creative games, like building stuff. But building stuff in a Star Wars universe would be fine. I think the issue Shelly was having was that the only thing the kids could come up with to play was what they saw on TV, and she wanted them to use their imagination, or build stuff, which I sympathize with. But I take Nebby's point, too, which is that often kids say they're playing "Star Wars" when really they're just playing, and the Star Wars isn't the point. It's just the name.


At 4:32 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I agree with some of the commenters. I have 3 boys (aged now 15, 12, 8). I also have 3 girls, and the differences in the way they we play are quite noticeable.

A little boy does not have to watch much (or any) tv to want to play 'Star wars' and such. WHat is it about these roles they want to play?

It is being tough, being a winner, defeating the baddies. It is being leaders and victors. All worthy things for a little boy to aspire to.

Obviously, especially when girls are around (!!), there needs to be some direction in their play so they don't get carried away and get too rough or aggressive. But it IS in their nature!

ANd as parents we need to keep limits on their gaming time, because little boys will easily play a computer game for hours and hours without strict limits (much more so than a little girl). But a little gaming time now and again is not going to keep them from growing up a into a mature Christian father.

There is such a thing as balance! There are lots of things we want our boys to grow to be. ANd that will happen, bit by bit, as they play Indinana Jones here, and built a fort there and zap some aliens here and build a lego ship there. With our guidance and patience and prayer.

Please don't turn out little boys into little girls! Allow them to be a little different ;-)



At 7:21 AM , Anonymous Allison said…

There seems to be something innate in little boys (perhaps all children?) that is attracted to media. My oldest is a 2.5 year old boy, and in the last 6 months or so, he has discovered Finding Nemo, Fox and the Hound, and Toy Story. And true to little-boy form, he LOVES Woody and Buzz. I don't really see this as a problem, so long as the shows he's enjoying are appropriate for him and they aren't becoming an obsession.

My husband loves fantasy and fiction cartoons and movies such as transformers, star wars, etc. so I'm sure our sons (we have 2) will be into it too. I don't have a problem with them enjoying these things, but like the author of the post, I want them to play their own imaginative games too. To foster this, we try to make watching videos a treat for him rather than a constant, expected part of his day. We also have alot of toys that foster imagination such as cars, blocks, little plastic people, etc. So far, so good, and we are beginning to see imaginative play happen.

That said, when he discovers star-wars, we'll bring on the light sabers!


At 9:47 AM , Blogger Jess said…

Boys play at what they love and know. Perhaps they called it "Mark Antony" 2000 years ago... or "Romans vs. Barbarians" 1500 years ago... or "Genghis Khan" 600 years ago, or "Redcoats vs. the Colonists" 200 years ago... now, it might be Knights/castles, or Star Wars, or Romans or Batman... but the main idea is still there-- boys pretending to be strong and valiant to fight and protect the innocent or lead an empire.

Those who don't have boys might not understand. I really think you are taking this one too far, Sheila, and drawing lines for other people that you yourself don't have to live out. I appreciate your writings here, but this is an unnecessary critique. I agree with the other commenters who have said-- "let little boys be boys". They have been sissified enough. Let them be strong and courageous and imagine what it would be like to fill the shoes of a great warrior or a little guy standing up to an evil empire. Sometimes they do this by imagining Bible characters, and sometimes it's through history lessons, and sometimes it's through modern roles.

Re-think this one... don't encourage rules or boundaries that are not written in scripture and that you yourself don't have to live by.

Grace & Peace,


At 10:46 AM , Blogger Jess said…

Sheila, I just realized I mis-read the post and thought you were writing these things about an experience watching someone else's boys. I'm sorry for the confusion! I still stand by my thoughts, but they are really directed toward the author of the piece.

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Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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