By Adele M. Brodkin, Ph.D.
Many children are completely at ease with the opportunity to play out their feelings and fantasies. Their play is rich with language opportunities, wonderfully interactive and cognitively complex. But for some, that play draws heavily on contemporary media fare, especially television programming. Result-the ubiquitous "superheroes" invade your classroom and bring aggressive themes (perhaps bordering on violence) too close for comfort. What do you do?
First, don't be shocked. It is going to happen because today, superheroes are everywhere and they are cleverly designed to appeal to children's normal strivings for mastery. And you don't want to squelch the creativity and spontaneity expressed. What's more, making an issue about the immorality of the characters could backfire and make the superheroes even more appealing. It's best to calmly and gently guide the play toward another resolution that puts the power in the child's own character. You might say, "What if instead of 'Dynaboy' doing the rescuing, you are the hero. You are strong and kind and help everyone else get along."
Praise the play's positive attributes. If it's an interesting story, praise the dear way it is told, and all the details about the characters and events children demonstrate.
When feasible, guide the dramas that contain violence toward another resolution.
Encourage children who may be stuck on such repetitive themes to branch out. Provide interesting props and offer ideas that can lead to other play scenarios.