Kids have vivid imaginations and insatiable curiosities, useful both for play and for exploring their worlds. Along with an active imagination, a child might also gravitate toward the impressive qualities of superheroes. If your child seems to live and breathe thoughts and actions that emulate fictitious characters in the media, you're likely to see some effects of this hero-worship.
The crux of a superhero’s life is generally putting the self behind everyone else to serve and protect. With this foundation in mind, kids can see a valuable lesson concerning good versus evil with good triumphing in the end, according to a June 2007 article in the “Journal of Moral Education” by Justin F. Martin. Superheroes often risk their lives and forgo their own desires to ensure the safety of others. When kids adopt these beliefs of fairness and justice, they might perform better in school, notes Martin.
Flying around in a cape or scaling walls is not without risk. Kids who play in superhero costumes, pretending to be their favorite characters, can get too carried away -- and injuries can occur. In fact, children who play pretend superhero role-playing games may be at risk for serious injuries, according to a March 2007 article published in the “Archives of Disease in Childhood.” The article discusses a a case in which a child fell out a window wearing a Spiderman costume, as well as other cases concerning children wearing superhero costumes who tried to fly. While some superhero costumes might come with added muscle padding, which can help protect children from injuries, children need to understand that these costumes will not allow them to perform superhero feats without injury.
Superhero adoration can lead to children acting out the stories in play. While this forceful play can seem aggressive, the play is not necessarily negative. Dominance, competition and power are important themes, especially for the male gender, according to the PBS Parents website. As long as the play does not take on a hurtful or harmful purpose toward others, it likely falls within appropriate parameters. Kids who play elaborate fantasies about rescuing the world or fighting the bad guys are usually playing appropriately unless the play escalates to the point where someone actually gets hurt.
When you have little superheroes in training, you should talk to them about superheroes. Keep in mind that pretending to be a superhero can be an effective way for a little person to feel big and powerful, so you can approach your child’s play in a supportive and empathetic manner. Discuss the various attributes of the superhero that make him super. Think aloud about real-life heroes your child might know – perhaps, an uncle in the military or a neighbor who is overcoming a disability. Make sure your children understand the difference between fantasy and reality – what’s pretend on the screen and what’s real. This will help ensure your child doesn’t suffer any serious injuries during superhero play. You might also need to make house rules about specific play you allow, where you allow it, and at what times.