If you happen to watch a large group of 4-6 year-olds play long enough, you’ll begin to see this age groups’ fascination with all things “bad” and “evil”. One of the favorite themes in play every year is to be the bad guys or the evil (unicorn, horse, Batman, fairy, fill-in-the-blank). Young children are drawn to this type of play. Battling the bad guy allows children to enact control over their fears and anxieties about what they perceive to be good and evil in the world around them. Being the bad guy lets them play with the power they imbue on villains. This type of play lets the children work through their fears and impulses in a safe environment, where they know that they and their friends are not really bad, but only acting.
When we noticed that good guy, bad guy play had become a prominent theme both indoors and out, we realized it was time to start a new study.
Our question for the children is:
How can you tell if someone is a good guy or a bad guy?
(another version is: What are the clues that it is a good/bad guy?)
We began the study by asking the children to draw their vision of each on separate pieces of paper.
It was interesting that almost all of the bad guys were identified as Darth Vader, a character in a movie that many of them have not seen.