Early years practitioners’ perspectives on weapon and conflict play: Pedagogical challenges and opportunities

Prof Doc Thesis

Lazell, L. 2023. Early years practitioners’ perspectives on weapon and conflict play: Pedagogical challenges and opportunities. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.8wwxq
AuthorsLazell, L.
TypeProf Doc Thesis

Background: Weapon and conflict play (WCP) is a contentious area of play in early years education that has been debated in previous literature. However, there is a paucity of research that directly explores the views of early years practitioners (EYPs) on WCP in England.

Current research: This qualitative study aimed to explore the perspectives of EYPs on WCP in one local authority. Data was gathered from nine EYPs using semi-structured interviews and analysed using reflexive thematic analysis. The researcher adopted a critical realist ontological and epistemological position.

Key findings and implications: Two overarching themes were developed: (1) ‘Making sense of WCP’ and (2) ‘The role of EYPs in WCP.’ Subthemes included: (1) The appeal of WCP, (2) The threat of WCP, (3) Learning through WCP, (4) It’s just another type of play!, (5) Uncertainty, (6) The need to protect children, and (7) If you can’t beat them, join them. The findings broadly align with existing research; WCP is perceived as presenting both challenges and opportunities in early years education. Uncertainty and cognitive dissonance around how to manage WCP was a key finding. Perspectives on WCP in this specific local authority appear generally more permissive when compared to existing research. The general consensus was that WCP is permitted, but within certain limits.

Distinctive findings included how EYPs perceive WCP to function as catharsis, how WCP can be a way for children to explore morality, how girls’ WCP varies in type and content to boys’, and finally, how EYPs judge acceptable WCP not just by the risk of physical harm but also by the language children use.

A key implication was the development of a framework to support EYPs to conceptualise and respond to WCP in their settings. Implications for how educational psychologists can support EYPs with WCP at the systemic level are discussed.

Keywordsgun play; war; weapon and superhero play; early years; pre-school
PublisherUniversity of East London
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.8wwxq
File Access Level
Publication dates
Online31 Oct 2023
Publication process dates
Completed20 Jul 2023
Deposited31 Oct 2023
Copyright holder© 2023, The Author
Permalink -


Download files

License: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
File access level: Anyone

  • 198
    total views
  • 109
    total downloads
  • 7
    views this month
  • 4
    downloads this month

Export as