Only days after the release and, even though they are too young for the movie, many kids are playing Star Wars. Did you know that super hero play includes more than fun?
Not all the characters in Star Wars are heroes, but they have some incredible powers. These appeal to all of us. Throughout our entire lives we will be on a journey of discovery of what we can–and can’t–do. Kids are constantly exploring their own abilities, especially physically. They try to fly off the sofa, jump down the steps, and climb the garden wall. A slide at the playground seems to invite kids to try as many different ways to slide down it as possible. As a consequence, sometimes there are bumps and scratches that can be fixed with a kiss; sometimes, we find ourselves visiting the doctor for dressings and stitches. And not just for kids. This part of super hero play has a powerful appeal.
Certainly in both the movie and in play, heroes rescue and care for others. Children include this in their play and caring is a value we want them to develop. As they play, kids are connecting action to outcome. Not only is this a value, it’s also a life skill. Figuring out which results are okay and which ones are problems can be a challenge. When kids go on a quest or a journey, as many heroes do, they are playing with the idea that rewards for actions may come in the future instead of the present. Being able to delay the payoff is another critical life skill.
There are other social and emotional skills too, like learning just the right amount of force to use when interacting. How much is acceptable, how much is hurtful? Impulse control is another, especially for kids. No matter how much kids want to run and make noise in the house or center, these impulses need to be managed. Warp speed is okay in a place with lots of empty space, like a park or gym. Self-regulation is a challenge and important for groups where individual needs and group expectations have to be combined.
Most super heroes engage in action. So do kids. Moving benefits both bodies and brains and is crucial for learning. Think of how many different movements are needed for a child to jump down a couple of steps to the ground. There’s the crouch down, the spring up, leaning out, and the landing. All these need to get linked together so there is a flow of energy. The brain links up all the parts of the action to create a whole. The brain uses this same strategy for language. Ever noticed how If kids are interrupted when they are talking, they have to start all over again? The mind is using similar pathways. Movements prewire the brain for higher thinking skills.
Super hero play is another great star idea for play. Materials needed can be as simple as a towel + imagination. How many stars would you give this play-of-the-day?