Today at the preschool, it’s superhero day! Kids will be picking superhero names, discovering their super-powers, and making all-important costume choices. But it’s not all about dress up.
The teachers know that a day of making superhero costumes won’t be like a quiet sewing circle, with kids sharing ideas for color combinations and snappy logo designs. No, superhero day means that the planet is in trouble and we need our super-kids to call on all their powers to help! And if we’ve learned anything from recent superhero movies, our heroes will win the day, but bystanders better run for cover because it’s highly likely there will be some collateral damage. Parents are excited for superhero day; kids are excited for superhero day; teachers are thinking crowd control.
Ok, not really. If there’s anybody rooting for the inner superhero, even as all that inner super-power comes busting out, it’s preschool teachers, who’ve always known the power is there, and are all about training it.
And the kids? Yes, they love the dress up, they love the make believe, and they love the drama of it all. But it’s also true that young children are drawn to superhero play when they feel weak, or frightened, as when events in the world are overwhelming. They’ll try out their power to resist, experiment with moral choices, and even practice forming ad-hoc super-groups: the Fantabulous Four, the Super-Duper Friends. They will learn, in the words of Spiderman’s Uncle Ben, that “With great power comes great responsibility.” (Sure he’s probably quoting Voltaire, but try teaching Voltaire to 5 year olds.)
If we believe that play is how young children learn (and we do) … then Superhero Day is when they get to learn what resources they have inside of them, to discover their own responses to the great challenges of this life, and have a chance to practice acts of kindness, justice, and protection. And they will do it all anonymously, letting an idea win the day while keeping their not-so-secret identities under the mask and cape, and just out of the spotlight.
Post originally appeared on the Parenting on The Peninsula Blog