My little boy is enthusiastic about everything, but has recently expressed a lot of enthusiasm for superhero play. He wants to fly around the house. He wants to use light sabers and swords. He thinks superheroes do karate, so lately, he wants to do karate. Some of this enthusiasm comes from his father’s love of Star Wars. Most of it comes from playing with other little boys at school. My husband has said that when he picks him up from school he is always wearing a cape and has often made a paper sword. Some of the suggestive violence worries me, and I wonder if some of his creativity is being stifled.
After talking to his teachers, reading a couple articles, and watching my little boy, I have come to the conclusion that there are some aspects of superhero play that are worth embracing. Some of the writing on this subject suggests that pretending to be a superhero gives children a sense of power and control. Little people can feel powerless because so much of their lives are directed by adults. Pretending to be a superhero can help them to feel powerful in important ways and builds self-confidence. Why discourage a child who wants to be a good guy not a bad one? The desire for superhero play can be manipulated for everyone in the family’s benefit.
Having found a few redeeming qualities of superhero play, I decided to set healthy boundaries around it in order to address some of my concerns. Superhero play in our home is to be about helping people and animals, not about fighting villains. Superhero play is not allowed when there might be some danger to a younger sibling. Superhero play will not involve the use of a weapon, including light sabers. Since superheroes are helpers, all superheroes must take opportunities to be helpful around the house.
The practitioners at Learning Dynamics, Inc. are a great resource of information about finding the proper balance necessary for developing our children into the “super” heroes of the future. If you are faced with similar questions and challenges give them a call.
I wish you a home full of happy, healthy, superhero play!