May the Force Be With You and the Force is PLAY!!
When we remember 90% of the brain develops by the age of 5, it’s a really good thing the brain’s favorite way to learn is PLAY! Do you need some play and learn ideas for the month of May? Here’s the first week of a May play activities calendar for young preschool kids. Come back soon for more learning and play fun…
Yesterday, I shared that I had met Superman actor Dean Cain and we’d talked about play. Did you know that superhero play, besides being fun and exciting for kids, has lots of opportunities for learning? When kids play superheros, they get to pretend they are brave and special. No wonder it’s so appealing. Even adults like to feel that way. Here are just a few aspects of superhero play.
Superhero play is active and the movement and physical involvement are important for learning, both for bodies and brains. When kids are physically active, they are using problem-solving skills such as how to get from one spot to another as fast as possible. This can include figuring out the body’s position in space, when and how to move around objects, what body part to move before others, and so on. The brain is making pathways and connections that will be used for in other kinds of learning, such as language, predicting, comparing, etc.
Superhero play gives kids an opportunity to practice social skills and self-control. Kids need to learn how much action is okay and how much is too much as they engage with others. there can be lots of negotiation as kids decide who is going to have which super powers. Controlling impulses is a self-regulation skill that can be challenging to learn. Kids might want to use their super fast running but they have to save the warp speed for outside where there’s lots of space and slow down in the house.
Often, superheros need to come to the rescue. Caring for others is an important value we all want children to have. Superheros may have a quest or a mission. This helps kids learn the valuable life lesson that actions in the present may not have their reward until some time in the future.
These are just a few of the reasons why superhero play has a role in early childhood development. Does your child have a favorite superhero?
Just recently, I got to meet–and have my picture taken–with actor Dean Cain who played Superman in the tv series Lois and Clark. Good thing he wasn’t dressed as Superman; I’d have been even more excited.
Sometimes, the roots of careers can be found in how a child plays, so I asked Dean if, as a young child, pretend and imaginative play was a big part of how he played. He shared that as a child he would combine plastic army figurines and blocks and mix them up together. Then, he would spread them out and create stories to go along with how they happened to be. He said that he used to do this for hours.
Children are all unique, with their own strengths, interests and challenges. They will play differently, too. It’s fascinating to find out about the chef who wanted an easy-bake oven even though it was a girls toy, the Disney designer who loved to draw, the figure skater seen going round and round in circles as a toddler in home movies. Looking back, we can see the hints of what these people would choose to do as adults in the way they played as children.
Too often, we dismiss what children do as “child’s play”. To kids, their play is incredibly important. Play is how children interface with the world. Thru play they learn, cope, and figure out themselves and the world. They do not limit their play to toys, but use whatever is available, often scaring their parents and caregivers. Kids will play by themselves or with others, with real objects or imaginary ones. Play is children’s work and, to kids, work can be play. Whether it’s helping us rake leaves, wash dishes, or pretending to fly as a superhero, kids will work and play hard.
One of the best ways to support children is to make sure they have time and opportunity to play. How will your child play today?