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Thursday, April 5, 2012

On Superhero Play



I strongly believe and support children immersed in Superhero play.

This stand is something that I have come to support and is in direct contrast to how I was raised. The home that I was raised in, was decidedly passive. Toy guns and swords were not allowed. We never even had water guns. I remember when my brother Jim, was about eight years old, and his friend’s dad had carved him a wooden toy gun, that his friend, Phillip, had gifted Jim with. It resided on top of my parent’s dresser while they tried to decide whether Jim could keep it or not. Eventually, they decided that since it was a work of art, he could indeed keep it. I loved it and would hold it clumsily in my small girly hands, almost coveting it.

In our neighbourhood, the boys played Cops & Robbers readily, and often. Since I was a girl, I was not allowed to play but moreover, I had no weapons. Not weaponry that the other kids could envision, that is. I did have a keen mind and could find places to hide and would eagerly jump out and ambush them with my finger gun. This of course only made the fellas angrier.

Today, I marvel at young ones immersed in Superhero play, and have learned of its value. When my son was a preschooler, I was filled with wonder of how he seemed to, almost naturally, slip into this rich and dramatic way of playing. Children’s play is their work, and it is how they make sense of their world. When something they experience is distressing, they look for ways to come back to peace, through play. If they can slay the source that causes the distress, they become powerful over their being once again. Superheroes are larger than life, courageous and commanding, all things that young preschoolers feel they may not be. For my son Max, his bucket of swords in his room, helped ward off any nightmares. His pirate ship tree house complete with a Jolly Roger and telescope was a safe haven for him to battle off any foes.
“Research tells us that play is a major vehicle in development. Through play, children test the waters, try out roles and behaviours, investigate right and wrong, experiment with language, use creativity, find outlets for physical activity, and learn more about difficult skills like impulse control and conflict resolution.” ~ Early Childhood News 

As a discerning mom, I fussed about whether I was creating a son that would be more violent and yet, at seventeen years of age, he subscribes to stalwart passivism. I do not believe that Superhero play leads to violent behaviours and with twenty-one years of teaching mostly five and six year olds, and the experience with my own children, I believe that it actually can do the opposite.

In the face of the atrocities that many children are inundated with daily, and thinking about how they work to make sense of their world, I would be interested in a conversation surrounding your thoughts about Superhero play, and whether you think there is a place for it or not?

~ Ellyn
The Pirate Ship