Superhero play an important part of growing up
Many parents will remember those months or years when their three-year-old boy or girl refused to leave the house without a Batman cape and a bike helmet.
Dressing up as a superhero is a form of imaginative or dramatic play in which children use costumes, figurines or other props to imitate the characters they admire.
It comes about from children’s exposure to television, DVDs and computer games and sees the child acting out what they have seen on TV.
In the past, some schools and early learning environments have chosen to ban or restrict superhero play because of its sometimes violent themes.
Children engaged in play may act aggressively and hurt or threaten each other, there may be an increased risk of accidents and some children may be excluded because of their lack of age or skills.
But while children may need some assistance in learning the rules of engagement for superhero play, it is an important part of growing up.
Goodstart Early Learning capability and early learning strategy general manager Heather Finlayson said if you took superhero play away from children, they may not clearly understand what they were observing or watching on television or in movies.
“There is a difference between encouraging combat play and managing play situations to enable them to get what they need out of it,” Ms Finlayson said.
“When we talk about intentionality it’s about enabling them to process what they see – which is the whole point of play.”
In her book Children Are People Too
, Dr Louise Porter writes superhero play can be beneficial when it helps children work out issues of good and evil, power and subordination.
She highlights, because of these benefits, it might not be wise to ban this form of play altogether.
But she said some children can be obsessive about the violent themes of TV programs, affecting the other children around them, resulting in the need for restrictions. She said parents should talk to children about their heroes so that they can share rather than disparage their interests.
Her book says this communicates that you accept their experiences and feelings, thus demonstrating that they can talk to you about anything, which is an essential protective behaviour.
Her book continues to highlight your engagement in these ways ensures that their play does not become surreptitious and allows you to provide support for the children as they work out any scary feelings.”
Tips to helping children safely engage in superhero play :
- Point out the differences between good guys and bad guys. Children don’t necessarily distinguish real people from fictional characters so it’s useful to point out “good” characteristics such as kindness and helpfulness.
- Teach children the different between rough and tumble play versus aggression. Falling over, gentle wrestling and hitting without hurting is fun rough and tumble, while threatening, humiliating and real hitting is aggressive.
- Encourage preschools to practice conflict resolution and heroism.
The Value of Superhero Play, extract from Putting Children First, National Childcare Accreditation Council, 2008
From Superhero to Real-Life Hero: Encouraging Healthy Play, Earlychildhood News.