Posts Tagged ‘playground’

When you pretend to kill someone, please use gentle hands

May 17, 2010

This morning, Charlie wanted me to tell his friend Matt about our bubble gun. It’s a gun; it blows bubbles.

There was a time, not too long ago, when Charlie had no idea what a gun was, or even how to hold one. Yes, we let him watch TV, but it’s always monitored. There is a specific selection of kids shows on PBS or Nick, Jr. on demand, which means no commercials and no violence. He’s also into old movies and YouTube, but again, monitored.

But this year his school friends are older. They know all about killing and guns and squashing bugs. Charlie has come home slashing a pretend sword and making his sticks cut down dandelions. Lately, when he gets angry he sometimes says he wants to cut my head off. (I swear, he’s well-balanced! I can be aggravating at times.)

I was worried about the aggressive talk until I started doing some reading. If kids can’t hit or kick or throw temper tantrums, they need to channel their aggression somewhere–like into words (I am so angry I feel like cutting your head off…you know, for example) or into game play, such as pretending to cut down dandelions or shoot each other with bubble guns.

So tentatively, and mixed with a lot of outdoor running around, we’ve allowed the violent play–as long as it is not rude or physically hurtful. In other words, you can pretend to kill someone, as long as you use gentle hands.

But today, when I told Matt about the gun, he said, “Oh! We’re not supposed to use that word.”

I thought back over what I’d said, thinking maybe he’d heard “sh*t” when I’d said “shoot.” “What word?” I asked.


I was dumbfounded. “Gun? Really?”

I called the teacher over. “They can’t say gun?”

And she explained how the kids had been pretending to use guns and saying they were killing each other. The aggressive language and pretend play was disturbing to the adults, so they’d called a teacher meeting and decided the kids couldn’t use the word ‘gun’ in class.

My first thought was that making guns into something secretive and subversive would only increase their appeal.

My second thought was that this was the exact opposite of all that I’d read. Granted, I’m not an expert in childhood development and supposedly these teachers are. But I explained how we handle it at home, and told her about what I’d read. I said that pretend play–as long as no one was actually getting hurt–seemed to be the safest way to act out aggression and figure out problem-solving techniques. She said the teachers just wanted to promote peace in the classroom, which is understandable with 18 kids.

So now I’m not sure what to think. What about cowboys and Indians? What about robots vs. aliens? What about all those other boy games that I don’t know much about? Are all of these verboten?

I’m thinking of going to the head teacher with my printed-out articles and requesting some sort of compromise. Maybe pretending with guns and swords can be okay when they are outside on the playground?

But what if I’m wrong? What if it isn’t okay for kids to pretend to kill each other? What if that does lead to real-life aggression?

Am I blowing this out of proportion? (I do live one neighborhood away from Park Slope, after all.) Is it a case of, if you imagine it, you’ll do it? Or, is pretend play really what I think it is: an essential tool for helping boys–and girls, too–learn to express and work through their aggression without actually hurting anyone?


Where did the kids go?

October 24, 2009

I’ve noticed something weird this fall. It took a few weeks for it to sink in because Charlie and I were away and doing other fun things that kept us away from our local playground.

Used to, we’d spend the morning in the playground, when the older kids weren’t around to outrun a toddling Charlie. But now, when we go at 11 before our lunch at the pizza place across the street, Charlie is the oldest kid.

He loves babies and is very gentle with them, so I don’t worry about him running them over. But it is an odd sensation to be at the jungle gym–or, like yesterday, in the park and the bigger playground with the sandbox–and see no kids over the age of two.

All of Charlie’s peers are in some sort of preschool, as he is most days. We’ve entered a new stage.

Click, Clack, Moo

July 31, 2009

click clack moo
The cast of Click, Clack, Moo. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Today, I decided to brave a “free ticket” extravaganza for a chance to see Click, Clack, Moo brought to life on the Lucille Lortel stage. There was surprisingly little hassle in getting a seat, and it was an absolutely delightful performance.

Charlie and I started the day slowly, hanging out by our lonesomes in the community garden. (It took two and a half years to get a key to the place; totally worth it.) He got dirty, grassy and bugged up. I got relaxed in the shade, plus turned compost and dumped out standing water. Then we moseyed to the playground, ate a light lunch at the local cafe (complete with time in the kids’ toy corner) and took a short nap.

In the early afternoon, we took the good ol’ F train to W. 4th Street where Charlie’s very loud rendition of “Sing” was greatly admired by other subway riders. One guy said, “Dude, you should do a record.”

We strolled through the West Village, buying and devouring fresh summer tomatoes from the farmers market, stopping to admire the fountain in the square, and making our way to the awesome children’s room at the library on Leroy. They have lots of toys–blocks, dollhouses, rocking horses, dinosaurs, and even a slide–plus about four times as many books as at our local branch.

Charlie, who is wonderfully kind to babies, made a quick friend of Jack, a 17-month-old who was soon following CW everywhere. Charlie, in exchange, was calling, “Jack, sit here. Jack, let’s read this book together. Jack, do you want a dinosaur?”

Then we saw the kids out the window playing in the sprinklers downstairs. We joined them, and swang and slid and ate more tomatoes.

About an hour before the show, we walked down to Christopher Street for tickets, then visited a store selling clothes for dogs and ate a banana muffin on a secluded park bench in the garden at St. Luke’s church.

When it was time for the show, we met Jesse, took our seats, laughed uproariously and clapped long and loud when it was done. Only in NYC can free children’s theater be so darn good.

Then we ate at Cowgirl, where I had the best pulled pork sandwich I’ve had since Melear’s, about twenty years ago. The difference must be in the tangy vinegar sauce.

A happy day. One that makes all the crap in this city worth taking.

Bay Ridge

May 12, 2008

A few weeks ago our first bike ride of the season was on a foggy Saturday. Charlie and I followed an out-dated map through Brooklyn, from Windsor Terrace to Bay Ridge. It only took about an hour to make it to the playground at 92nd and the water. (We got lost only once, when the bike path disappeared and the road we wanted was across an interstate. It only took four or five wrong turns to figure out how to get over all the cars.)

We met some of Charlie’s friends from Fedkids and they had a great time slopping in puddles, swinging, and climbing up the slide. Plus, Charlie and I loved the ride. We had so much fun, we convinced Jesse to bike back to Bay Ridge on Sunday, to Owls Head Park. Here are the photos.

owls head

Sharing the ducks

February 2, 2008

On Thursday, Charlie and I went to music class, where he played drums, triangles, jingle bells, and shakers. Then he danced to “Wheels on the Bus” and some Chinese new year music. He especially liked the teacher’s stuffed snake who gave all the kids kisses. He talked about the “SSSSSS” all the way home. (And even today, Saturday, he talked about “Gina’s SSSSS” during lunch.)
Then later on Thursday afternoon, we saw bunnies, dogs, cats and snakes at the pet store and ducks and geese in Prospect Park.

Charlie was in heaven.

He wanted to share his joy with everyone. When we met a cute baby on the playground (probably about a year old, waddling adorably in a rainbow-colored snowsuit with a pointy hat), Charlie ran up to him.

“Baby! Baby!”

Then he ran to me. “Baby,” he said, pointing at the little boy. “Duck!” he said, pointing at the lake. (I heard: “Oh, how can there be so many wondrous creatures in the world as babies AND ducks!”)

I smiled. “Why don’t you tell the baby about the ducks?”

He ran right over to the baby and stood very close to him, looking deep into the kid’s eyes. “Baby!” he said, very seriously, “Duck!” He pointed to the lake, as if to say ‘Man, there are ducks, right over there, can you frickin’ believe it?’

Scenes from a play day

October 24, 2007

Charlie slid down the slide at the playground. “Wee!”

Then, after playing hard and falling in a mud puddle, he tried the slide again and got stuck.



Jesse pushed Charlie for a while before realizing that someone had colored the back of the baby swing with sidewalk chalk. By the time he saw the damage he had chalk on his hand, on the side of his pants, and in a perfect handprint across his crotch from where he’d scratched himself. I laughed for five minutes straight.


Charlie knows how to open the playroom door. He wiggles the knob and pushes until it opens enough for his fingers to fit in the space. The front door is heavier, but I’ve been locking it—just in case. (After a very small entryway it leads directly to the stairs.) This morning, Jesse forgot his keys. When he came back to get them, we must have forgotten to lock the door. I heard a snick and turned to see Charlie with his hand on the knob and the door opened just a crack. Terror must have made me super fast, because I nearly threw my back out getting across the foyer to close it.


On a walk through Prospect Park we stopped to see the ducks, geese, cormorants, and swans. “Quack, quack, quack, wawa,” said Charlie. We said hello to a neighbor who was there with her eight-month-old. And then the geese began getting out of the water.

They walked slowly but menacingly toward us. Four on one side of me and Charlie, three on the other side of our neighbor. More coming out of the water. My neighbor and I picked up our kids at the same time and began backing up. Further and further we walked, more geese coming after us. All I could think of was how our old dog Cecil’s father fought a goose to the death. Could these be those kind of geese? Vicious?

I turned and saw that an old lady was pulling out bagels, preparing to feed the birds. (Nanny, does this remind you at all of our first trip to NYC? Beware the pigeons! And, apparently, the geese.) Charlie and I dodged around the lady, narrowly avoiding the not-vicious-yet geese.


Charlie and I sat on the hill, green grass covered with fall leaves. I picked up a maple leaf by its stem. “What color is this, Charlie?”


Could he have really said brown?



“I have an apple. You want to share?”

Nod. Nod.

One big juicy bite later, Charlie grabbed my apple and took off.

Little apple thief.


As we walked around the lake:


“What Charlie?”

Deep breath of awe. “Wawa.”


There are ride-on toys at the playground, and Charlie snagged a turn on the one that still has flashing lights. He liked it enough that he didn’t want to get off, even when he spied a particularly nice leaf.

But he wanted the leaf, too. So he leaned way over…until he slid right off.

He sat on the ground. Looked at the leaf. Looked at the little buggy. Looked at the leaf.

Then he pushed the ride-on toy away. “Bye bye!” And left both goodies behind in favor of the slide.


Normally he crawls up the stairs to the slide. Today, he saw another kid holding the hand rail and using his feet to go both up and down.

After two tries, Charlie was doing it, too. Big boy steps both up and down.


A little girl played in the tot lot today wearing part of her Halloween costume: a tiara and angel wings. (They had glitter and everything.)

Charlie saw her get out of the stroller and he ran over, following her halfway around the playground. “Bublefwy. Bublefwy. Bublefwy. MAMA! Bublefwy!”

I laughed. “Yes, she does look like a butterfly.”