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Great toys are the playthings that invite children to create with a full range of expression. Most toys from the store, often marketed through and based on movies and TV programs, have a “script” that suggests children do one thing over and over again. Children do need and love repetition, but every child also needs to change things up a bit during play to find his or her own creative and unique self.

Banning the games and themes on TV shows and in the movies probably won’t be successful. If you try to ban war and weapon play, for example, your child may be more drawn into the idea of it simply because it is forbidden. Kids also need to play some of these games to figure out what the stories mean to them.

We can’t just leave them in the hands of the media, however, or let them loose with violent play. If you play the games with your kids, you can nudge a new perspective. If they “shoot” you, pretend they had a love gun and shower them with hugs and kisses. Next time around, pretend to be wounded and see if you can get your child to become a medical doctor for a minute rather than the aggressive or defensive superhero.

It will also be helpful as a parent to watch TV and movies with your children so you can discuss what you see. A discussion about what is going on in the story can be serious, or you can be playful as you watch the show, pretending to be foolishly bewitched by the superhero of the day.

One other thought: All toys don’t have to come from the toy store. A simple cardboard tube from inside a roll of paper towels can be a light saber, sword, tree, musical instrument, or megaphone. The cushions from the couch can be made into innumerable variations of a fort, especially when sheets and blankets are added. Now that sounds fun and creative!