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Super Hero Play

Date: April 28, 2017 Author: hpelc Categories: Advocacy Blogs, Centre Philosophy Blogs, Educators Blogs, Parenting Blogs, Reflection Blogs

Super Hero Play – The Adult as the Villain

            By Loretta Davis


Superhero play and gun play is often the thorn in an educator’s thumb. Children often get injured, frustrated, friendships tested, boundaries broken and feelings hurt. An educator can be put in a tough place when trying to manage the various situations that come from this kind of risky, boisterous play. It’s loud, (often) unsafe, it gets complicated with themes such as violence, killing, bad people, good people, etc. Ethics beyond a child’s years.

Perhaps parents sympathise with this. Have you ever felt unsure of if you should stop your child from playing superheros or guns? Perhaps you’ve tried to distract them, or encourage them to make something that’s not a gun? Have these techniques lasted long? In my 9 years of child care, I’ve never found these techniques to work.


Because the child doesn’t want to do it that way.

And we know this. See, we think we are distracting them, or that we’ve ‘negotiated’ with them (so that we’ve met them halfway), but the child remains as fixated as ever. The problem is, there’ no real solution. Often, the child has never watched superhero movies, looked at cartoons etc.

The media tells us our children are saturated and bombarded with violence through superheros, but are they really? At the end of the day, parents and families decide what and when their children watch through media platforms, particularly young children. I often find when talking with parents, they don’t even know how their child became so familiar with particular heroes, anti-heroes or weapons. Recently, with talking to the pre-schoolers, I found that they didn’t even know the extent of actions a superhero undertakes such as saving people and animals, doing good things, hiding their identity… the pre-schoolers told me that a superhero “fights a bad guy”.

That was the extent of their understanding of what happens between good guys and bad guys. They fight.

And that was the answer as to why the children were getting injured by each other when playing – because it’s all based on fighting.

This doesn’t mean I suddenly know how to fix this conundrum. My instincts tell me to ban superhero play and gun play, like many services have. But this is not what the children want, which means it’s not what I want. I want to be able to support them, but I also need to keep them safe.

So I’ll try some things.

–          Focusing on how heroes are everyday people who do magnificent things. Not just people with weapons who fight bad guys.

–          Putting in place strong boundaries such as using soft resources in fighting play, not hard objects.

–          Reiterating we all have the right to play, but not the right to hurt others.

It’s a small start, but I have to start somewhere. I don’t want to become the villain of this story, but it’s certainly hard to encourage young children to try to assess risks, to tell the difference between a big risk and a little risk, to understand safe play and dangerous play, and all the while support their rights to make decisions about their play, to re-enact their world so they can understand it, and even to allow them to make mistakes or ‘bad decisions’ so they can learn