Children are remarkable and have the ability to learn valuable lessons, though they learn differently than you. Using superhero role-play is one activity useful for helping children develop optimally. Playful activities make learning engaging for children and approach them on their developmental level. Children can make up their own heroes or pretend they are popular heroes such as Superman and Wonder Woman. Helping children make the right decision through the use of superhero role-play makes them feel like heroes and contributes to positive growth.
Play therapy is at the heart of superhero role-play. Play Therapy International states that 71 percent of children who undergo play therapy indicate positive change. Therapists use this therapy with children to facilitate healing and growth. Play therapy enables children to process emotional content by playing with toys such as action figures or puppets on their own terms. Therapists also use this therapy to teach social skills. Children's limits in play therapy are few, but they are not allowed to harm themselves or the therapist. In these situations, the therapist instructs children on more appropriate behaviors. Using the core concepts of play therapy when helping children develop decision-making skills will bolster your method and the results.
Superhero role-play is a form of imaginative play that has many benefits. It promotes social learning and facilitates the growth of appropriate interaction skills. Once thought to be violent and aggressive, superhero role-play allows children to be heroes and use heroic attributes to learn. This form of play is not gender-specific -- boys and girls are able to play together and learn. To begin superhero role-play, give children materials to become their chosen hero. If you are using pre-established heroes such as Batman or Supergirl, have items related to those characters. Letting the children become their own heroes adds a personal level to this activity. After you have assembled the children and materials, you are ready to begin.
Prosocial behavior means any behavior that is positive and works toward the welfare of others. Desalyn De-Souza and Jacqueline Radell, two educators who use superhero play with children, recommend using specific themes to teach prosocial behavior. Sit with children and brainstorm ways to be prosocial, such as being considerate to others or helping others in need. Then, allow the children to use what they learned in role-play. As the children play, they are learning how to make choices that help others and promote cohesion. Join the activities and let the children be your heroes and practice prosocial skills.
Superhero role-play works as a tool to promote empathy. Relating to others through empathy plays a significant role in making good decisions. For this part of superhero role-play, begin by modeling empathy and decision making by giving a scenario. When starting this process, you can use a volunteer to help. In your hero personas, enact a scenario in which you are doing something wrong such as stealing. Ask your helper how that makes him/her feel and ask the helper and other children for a more appropriate response. Using these types of activities engages children's feelings and helps them understand that making the right choice means doing thing to others that they would want done to themselves. After the modeling exercise, allow the children to practice empathy and making appropriate choices through imaginative play.
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S. Grey has a Master of Science in counseling psychology from the University of Central Arkansas. He is also pursuing a PhD and has a love for psychology, comic books and social justice. He has been published in a text on social psychology and regularly presents research at regional psychology conferences.