Why The Hunger Games Is Appropriate For Small Children (Sort Of)

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I was stunned when our oldest daughter, at about the age of five, casually mentioned Hannah Montana. At that time, she was neither spending time at other kids’ houses nor watching TV without me knowing. How did she even come across the character? I didn’t necessarily have anything against Hannah Montana, although I knew with certainty that she had not been exposed to that highly contagious virus at home.

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More recently, our youngest daughter donned a pair of my heels and threw a white, gauzy piece of netting over her head and gazed at me modestly from beneath it… at the ripe old age of fifteen months. Where would she even come across the concept of a bride?

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Over the long weekend, we stayed at a cabin in the woods on the edge of a lake with a hefty supply of pine needles, cones, rocks, sticks and other assets for four girls under the age of nine. They did not disappoint, and began carving spears, bows and arrows.

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An arsenal of handmade weapons.

Their intent seemed to be inspired by The Hunger Games, which none of them have read or seen. I did hear Sophie and a neighborhood boy discussing “playing Hunger Games,” and the boy enthused about the challenges awaiting them and the fact that “sponsors would send meals.”

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Jenny, I know this is not an ideal shot, but I love the weapons in their hands, the sunlight on their toes and the shadowy look of them against a beautiful backdrop of land to explore! :)

This was all pretty fine with me. There’s no need for Sophie to see or consider some of the disturbing scenes of kids killing kids for quite a while, but the trickle-down effect – of kids desiring to have the skills and wherewithal to survive in the woods if not even develop a special relationship with particular trees (see page 2!) – is a positive thing.

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The outdoors is a place to be enjoyed, and something that all kids should experience more regularly. I remembered “playing Star Wars,” as well as He-Man and G.I. Joe with my cousins as kids. We hadn’t seen any of the shows or movies, but their existence was sufficient to furnish plot lines. We were soldiers challenged with survival in a foreign land. We were warriors with nothing but our wits about us. We were explorers in a galaxy far, far away.

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While playing Swiss Family Robinson or Sacajawea might be more appealing from a literary or historical sense, television shows and movies (even those never viewed and the simple, secondhand rumor of their premise) can have an interesting, powerful and positive effect on kids’ imagination and outdoor play.

More spears and poison darts, please.

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A full afternoon of rock throwing.

As an aside, I’m a huge fan of my friend Ken Finch’s Green Hearts Institute for Nature in Childhood – check out Sophie mentioned in one of their newsletters last year and download a free copy of A Parents’ Guide to Nature Play!

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10 thoughts on “Why The Hunger Games Is Appropriate For Small Children (Sort Of)

  1. My very favorite thing to play for years was Little House on the Prairie. Let me tell you, I survived some hard winters, learned to make my own quilts, and much more in my little imaginary world. Katniss and Laura Ingalls have a little in common- that spunky survivor element. (This is Audra by the way- Zooki Zeeni is my brand spankin’ new embroidery log :o)

    • Oh, Audra – this is one of the many reasons I think you are fabulous. There is no doubt in my mind that all those years on the prairie made you the woman you are today! XO!

  2. this just makes me smile! You are so right … I never thought about any of this from this perspective! I was just freaked out with the Hunger Games concept….love this post!!

  3. My first comment got lost and it was so well written but here is the gist! As a school teacher and an aunt I am often surprised at the things kids know that we have no clue where they learned it. It seems as if some things are just born into our genetic make-up or we “catch” them through some kind of osmosis or freaky brain wave action. Especially when it comes to gender roles but beyond gender roles – I really think a lot of kids are being raised “soft”. For whatever reasons a lot of kids just arent getting outside. And I mean the imaginative, exploratory play of outside – not just kicking a soccer ball around.
    My sister and I grew up in the woods -literally! We were in the woods, at the pond or wandering through acres and acres of farm land that surrounded our house from sun up to sun down and sometimes longer. We MADE our toys out of sticks and random things we found in the woods. We hunted, gathered, and scavenged. We played MAKE BELIEVE! We weren’t afraid to get dirt under our nails!
    Did we grow up to be less of a woman because of this? On the contrary I think I am a BETTER woman! I can start a fire, catch, clean and scale a fish, change a tire. I can wield a hammer and operate a table saw. I can also cook, clean and do laundry. I can kiss a skinned knee and I can love deeper than love seems possible. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I’m moody and YES I like the color pink!
    I love that The Hunger Games created a female character that embodies what I feel I learned in my childhood in the woods. I love that girls can find enjoyment in play that no so long ago was seen as something only a boy would do.
    I love that your girls are doing some of the things I did!

    • Oh, Jules – I love this!

      Your comment about kids being raised “soft” resonates. I often feel like an evil mom because I work so hard to help my girls be resilient. A skinned knee is not the end of the world, they will survive it. That’s not to say I don’t hurt for them, but I don’t want them to feel that the world revolves solely around them.

      By the way, have you ever seen this post on The 5 Best Toys of All Time? It is one of my favorites.

      Love all the things you’ve shared here. Come spend some time with my girls soon. :)

      XO, my friend.
      ~B

  4. Hear, hear! I remember playing Ewoks in the back yard and bushwacking through the woods to build forts…and She-Ra, of course. Oh, such fun! I love that you’re ok with your kids learning that the outdoors is a place to embrace rather than fear. (and I’m a huge Hunger Games fan, too!)

  5. Pingback: The Year of the Book | The Little Magpie

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