Superhero play can be a perfect opportunity to pick up on group dynamics, establish rules of consent and encourage empathy and awareness. While preschool age boys seem more drawn to the action of running, jumping and creating weapons from props, girls tend to engage in superhero play in less physical ways. Rather than engaging in epic pretend fights, girls seem to explore superpowers through fantasy scenarios with magic spells and lots of verbal interaction. Either way, to encourage safe and positive superhero play it is best to discuss and establish rules together with the children right from the start.
Here are some tips:
Establish rules of consent and safety (e.g. what’s an acceptable choice of weapons: foam noodles and rolled up newspapers; always ask who wants to be in your game, aim at those only who agreed to play, be careful not to disrupt other children’s games if someone says stop – STOP means I’m not playing anymore; keep your body safe, keep your friends body safe, keep our materials safe, be kind and have fun!).
With many children in a tiny room, and depending on your rules of safety and consent (where is a good space to run etc.), it might be best to have a designated areas where children are allowed to play superheroes (e.g. building block area, outside etc.).
Clarify unacceptable, aggressive behavior that will end the game (e.g. teasing, name calling, touching each other’s bodies with weapons, excluding children etc.).
Practice/model conflict resolution, coordination, negotiation and compromise (e.g. observe group dynamics and only stop the game if the children have troubles finding a solution, make sure everyone is heard, point out what you observe as part of the problem “I think Julie might feel excluded, is that right?”, or “If only one person is saying what others should do or only one has the most powers, is it still fun for you to play with that person?” etc. and always ask for children’s ideas on solutions and make sure they realize they have choices, control and power over themselves!).
Communicate the positive sides of ‘superhelpers’ and what exactly makes a hero (determination, kindness, helpfulness, bravery and courage – real heroes don’t use violence to solve problems!).
Invite or visit local, real life superheroes (e.g. firefighters).
Talk a bit more about ‘bad guys’ (e.g. sometimes we make bad choices but we’re mostly good people. Really ‘bad guys’ make really serious mistakes like hurting people etc.)
If you’re further wondering about the benefits of superhero play, how to introduce the topic of superheroes or how to support healthy superhero play, make sure to check out our other superhero projects with lots more useful information:
I hope this helps!