Ask Teacher Lisa: Media Play

Dear Teacher Lisa,

We’re writing to you because we’re concerned about some recent behavior with our son. During a school break, we watched The Lion King as a family. We also made the mistake of buying the book. 

Ever since (for about a month), our son has only exclusively played on the floor as a lion or recreated the scene of Mufasa falling into the abyss. This concerns us because all other physical or imaginative play has been stifled. We’ve tried redirecting the play to other avenues but it comes back to the same thing for most of the day, all week. It is also showing up at his gym class where he crawls about instead of following the group activities. At bedtime it causes frustrations as he plays and pounces near us as we’re holding his younger sibling. We’ve explained to him the dangers of playing on the bed and the need for the baby to be safe but our words are ignored. 

We’re looking for any suggestions you may have on weaning or redirecting this behavior into something more open-ended or physical when it comes to play, while stills respecting his play interests. 


No More Lion King

Dear No More Lion King,

While I think you are wise to take in media in small doses, because it is very powerful in its influence and can stunt creativity, I also wouldn’t beat yourselves up too much about it. There has been A LOT going on in this time period with your family growing from 3 to 4! Here are my thoughts…

1) Media – Yes, limit the movie watching from this point forward. Talk over together which things you might want to show him and set expectations for time and frequency for yourselves and him. Watch as a family when possible, and debrief, pause to discuss, or skip over parts you think might be too much. Maybe stick to short educational shows? I don’t think having the book is necessarily bad, because re-reading it might help him process the story and seeing it on the page isn’t quite as intense as on the screen.

2) Rough play – He liked this type of play before watching Lion King, and at school would often pretend to be a dino or a fierce animal, so I think the lions and the wildlife resonated with him. He is still mastering impulse control and learning the physical limits of others, so the fact that these challenges are coming out in his “lion play” isn’t all that surprising. With the changes at home, he may also be venting feelings through some of this physical play. It is common that new older sibs have to learn how to be gentle with new baby siblings and I often hear these same types of things. The older one is either overly aggressive or overly lovingly smothering or both. It will take some time to adjust. It may help to wonder about his feelings or openly discuss how you are all feeling about the new addition of the baby. Share things you like and things that are hard, so he knows it’s ok if he isn’t 100% positive and you will support him. 

3) Special time – Maybe you can set a time of day when you have special time with your son. For example, you set up “lion wrestling” from x to y time in the afternoon. But you make it clear that when lion wrestling is over, it is gentle time. 

4) Ideas – You will probably have to supervise closely and hold limits repeatedly when your son is near the baby for this first stretch until everyone acclimates. You can experiment with different techniques. You could try giving your son helper jobs. You could try staying in pretend play mode and directing him as the lion to what the lion needs to do (weave the story into what is happening in your day and adjust it accordingly). You can try tag teaming so that one of you is with the baby and one of you is with your son. You could try using a visual schedule or talking through the plans for the day in advance with your son, so he knows what to expect at each point. 

5) At School – Your son has been playing this theme out at school as well. He is definitely very into it. That said, he is often willing to merge the Lion King play with other games happening on the yard with adult support, and some reminders about how physical he can be with others. With persistence, he does follow along with the adjusted game and flex to the new scenarios.  For example the other day, I was a baby trying to get candy from kids and he was offering me candy as the lion, and then another child turned into a fart monster and we realized that we weren’t at Pride Rock, we were at Fart Rock. Haha. We all played together as a group and things were evolving and changing. I think because he hasn’t yet developed elaborate play ideas of his own, he has latched onto the Lion King story, because it is something he knows how to play out. But we will keep working on expanding upon it and giving him an outlet for the physicality he enjoys. 

Don’t worry, he won’t eat sleep and breathe The Lion King for life…but he might for the next few months. 😉

Hope some of this is helpful. Let me know if you have further questions or thoughts.

Lion Hugs,

Teacher Lisa

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