We often tell families about the importance and outcomes of play. However, we often think negatively about Superhero play. We re-direct and ask children, in so many words, to engage in “real” play. But have you ever seriously considered and reflected on the importance and significance of children’s superhero play? I have fond memories of taking on the role of Wonder Woman, having strength and power, and being indestructible. As an adult I reflect back on these memories and wonder why feeling such power was important, being able to create the play as I went with both conflict and resolution so exciting, pretending to run, jump and “lasso” with that magic rope so empowering… and I now realise that Superhero Play allows children to explore power, achievement, excitement, risk taking, regulation. It actually supports self-concept and a positive (and literally, strong) sense of self.
So what happens when you see children pretending to be Spider Man, Bat Man, a marvel character? Do we discourage this, or do we ask questions such as:
-Tell me about your character… what can he/ she do?
-How do you feel when you are this character?
-In what ways might you be similar to this person?
These discussions and shared meanings can help us as educators to understand children, their perspectives, their challenges and where and when they feel powerful.
While this play at times can appear unplanned and spontaneous, it is in actual fact, well planned, specific to the character, and explores many life skills and issues. If we play our cards right, we can also introduce discussions around aggression, conflicts, empathy, importance if helping others, consent & safety, boundaries, just to name a few.
So before we ask children to stop their superhero play, stop and think about your favourite childhood Superhero, put on that imaginary cape, and join them!
What are your thoughts? How do you feel about / support Superhero play in your service?