Whenever children say ‘Let’s pretend’, a new landscape of possibilities for learning is revealed. When children pretend, they try on new feelings, roles and ideas. They stretch their minds along with their imaginations. – Curtis & Carter
To finish our artful exploration of superheroes we pictured ourselves as superheroes in our own Superhero Landscapes. The children invented funny and very thoughtful scenarios for themselves, including protective powers in form of colors or protective magic rainbows, exploring space and independence – living alone away from home (but including a toolkit to repair the rocket ship to fly back!), exploring fears and strengths (I wouldn’t want to live alone, I’d be with my friends, they make me strong!”), further experimenting with power (“I’d be in charge of everything.”), seeking personal empowerment (“I’d have feathers so I can fly!”), exploring ‘good’ and ‘bad’, and giving shape to the ‘bad’ guys – sorting and trying out different roles (“I’d only fight the bad guys.”, “If I’d be a superhero I’d be a bad guy.”).
If you’re wondering about the benefits of superhero play, how to introduce the topic of superheroes or how to you can support superhero play (and explain it to concerned parents), make sure to check out our other superhero projects with what I hope is lots of useful information here:
- Printed photo of each child
- Sturdy paper
- Oil Pastels or Crayons
- Watercolor set, or liquid watercolors, paintbrushes
- Mounting tape
- Glue sticks and/or school glue
- Collage materials (feathers, sequins, foam shapes, pompoms, pipecleaners, glitter, paper craft punches, tissue paper shapes, washi tape etc.)
Step 1: Draw around your photo
On a table set out a photo, a glue stick and a big paper for each child. Invite the children to choose a spot for their photo on their paper before glueing it down. Talk about how they can use the waterproof Sharpies to draw on and around their photos to turn themselves into superheroes.
To get an idea of how their superheroes might look like (“I wonder if you would you have legs or wings?” etc.) you could brainstorm to those questions, and if necessary collect some ideas of how the children might draw these ideas:
If I’d be a superhero…
I’d look like this…
Have these strengths, tools, weapons, vehicles…
Do this/help by doing this…
Remind the children that we’ll want to cut out their superheroes and draw everything else (e.g. where they live, any additional vehicles or powers) onto an extra paper. They only have to add what they want to attach to their superhero bodies at this point.
Step 2: Paint your background
Once the children finished drawing their superheroes, help to cut them out and invite them to draw a whole landscape for their superheroes. Use an extra paper, oil pastels and then watercolors (the oil pastels will repel the watercolors and shine right through!).
Where would their superheroes live, what would they do, what things, tools, friends, colors and shapes would be around them?
Most of the children created little stories already and added to them while they were drawing and painting.
Step 3: Collage
Once somewhat dry you can help the children to tape their superhero onto colored papers. Attach a square piece of mounting tape on the back of each drawing before sticking it onto the paper to create a raised, three-dimensional look. Invite the children to decorate and collage on their papers. Set out containers with choices of colorful stickers, cut tissue paper shapes, pompoms, feathers and scrap construction paper shapes etc.
Show how to glue a dot the size of the chosen shape onto paper and press the shape onto it. This is a perfect opportunity to practice sharing and for asking each other for turns with the materials. If there are a lot of materials out on the table, I sometimes give each of the children a little container to go “shopping” for materials. The children love picking and collecting their own materials and usually sort everything back that they didn’t use.
Some children asked for a hole puncher to add some pipe cleaners as hangers for their little masterpieces.
Step 4: Reflect and discuss
After a project I often let the children show their work to each other. Experiencing that our imagination and thoughts are being seen as valuable and worthy of being explored is a big part of why we always tell each other about our artwork.
Each child introduced their superhero and we talked about their particular superhero strengths and powers, where they would live and what their superhero would do out in the world.
Look at these superheroes with some truly amazing, empowering or protecting powers! It’s been such a great superhero week with these children and I’m still in awe of their emerging voices and individualities, their stories, the exploration of power and magical thinking, the sorting of roles and ‘good and bad’ and how they might ultimately have found some personal empowerment in their fantasy creations as well as in our real world when they negotiate play, set their roles and become their own little persons. So grateful to be part of their journey!
I really hope you’ll give this a try!