involving other children in your child's imaginary play
Everett is a media-saturated kid, despite all my good intentions during pregnancy. We love Dora, Backyardigans, and movies that may or may not be kid-friendly but Everett loves: Chronicles of Narnia, Princess Bride, and naturally the entire Disney/Pixar oeuvre. He's at the age where imaginative play is not just developing, more like seeping into every nook and cranny of his world. He sees bad guys and princesses (in need of rescue) and superheroes everywhere.
Lately, he's been involving other kids (largely girls, age 4 or 5) in his play. He'll draft them as superhero helpers to save the princess and beat the bad guys (even if they, themselves, are princesses -- that doesn't seem to slow him down any). The girls will call him "my superhero" and will assist him in gigantic karate kicks and sword play and the occasional shooting (from any weapon, he's using his stethiscope from his doctor kit as a laser-type "shooting thing") to beat the bad guys and rescue the many princesses waiting in the trees, under the bench, on the roof, in the closet.
Yesterday, both Everett and his princess/superhero friend got in trouble for finding huge sticks to use for swords. Everett couldn't stop talking about his friend (her daddy calls her his princess!) and wishing to play with her more. But as they both got in trouble, she left the park hurriedly and Jonathan never had a chance to exchange phone numbers with her daddy.
Sometimes I worry that Everett's rather good-vs-evil, violent play will keep other parents from wanting their kids to play with him -- and wondered if that hadn't been the reason the princess friend had gone home so quickly. But it's just the way he takes dominion over his world and I don't want to quash it. In fact, I've been encouraging it, playing along with him when I have time and engaging in his stories. We're even planning to throw a save-the-princess birthday party (princesses can save other princesses, naturally! we're all feminists here :).
Do you let your kids engage in the imaginations of other children? And how much latitude do you give them with the beating of badguys and the swordplay (assuming safety of all involved, naturally)? I've noticed that parents of kids over 4, or so, throw up their hands and accept that "killing" bad things is just a rite of passage, and have stopped disciplining their kids for saying the "d" word. As have I. What's your policy with imaginary death and killing? Am I being too permissive?