The larger than life imagery of superheroes is great for enticing children to be creative while participating in pretend play. This type of play is great for building emotional, social, and thinking skills. Like when I was a child, my kids also have a lot of fun playing “superheroes” with their friends. These types of experiences are great for teaching children about interacting with others through cooperation, communication, and sharing.
It’s exciting to pretend to be a superhero. By imaging themselves as different heroes, children see the world through someone else’s eyes, which teaches them about differing perspectives, respect for others, and empathy. Pretending to be a superhero has also been shown to enhance both self-confidence and self-esteem within kids. Of course, it does! Who wouldn’t feel great about themselves after just having save the world against a monster, natural disaster, or dastardly villain?
Plus, pretend play nurtures critical thinking and creativity. After all, our young superheroes have to imagine the obstacles they are facing in their pretend adventures and think out how they are going to overcome these challenges to save the day. My daughter loves writing short stories she dreams up about heroines, while my son is passionate about drawing his favorite heroes and sketching characters that he hopes will one day be the stars of their own cartoon or comic book. While kids may think they are just enjoying themselves while drawing and writing about superheroes, these efforts are also valuable in bringing out artistic and scholastic skills as well.
INTRODUCING STEM CONCEPTS
Oftentimes a superhero’s origin revolves around a chemical reaction, mutation, or technological advancement. The character Daredevil was exposed to toxic chemicals that blinded him, but also enhanced his other senses. The X-Men were born with mutations that provide each member of their team of heroes with unique super powers. Cyborg from the Justice League was created when a guy was saved from dying in an accident by having his human body infused with robotic parts.
Superheroes also regularly use gadgets, scientific principles, vehicles and wonderous devices as part of the plot of their stories. The Fantastic Four are always using all sorts of amazing tech to defeat bad guys. Batman has his utility belt filled with awesome tools and weapons. Spider-Man created the fluid used to fling out his trademark webs in his high school chemistry class. Let’s not forget about Iron Man, whose entire suit is a technological marvel.
These elements of superhero stories get kids thinking about science, technology, engineering, and math and introduce them to a variety of STEM concepts and skills. Not only are the scientific careered characters who star in The Big Bang Theory comic book fans, but I know quite a few actual scientists and engineers whose interest in their career field was spurred by a childhood interest in superheroes.
Pointing out how STEM topics are incorporated into superhero stories is a nice way for parents to energize an interest in important educational subjects and career skills that children might otherwise not pay much attention to. By getting kids to embrace STEM, we are teaching them they can be real life superheroes who can save the lives of others and make the world a better place through science, technology, engineering, and math.