Superhero play is a way children can express their feelings and develop language skills, social skills, gross motor and thinking skills.

Being a superhero is every child’s fantasy. Who doesn’t want to have superpowers, such as Captain America’s agility or Black Panther’s enhanced senses?

Children aged three to six years old are particularly fascinated with heroic cartoon characters, but is this healthy? We chat with Ilze van der Merwe, psychologist and director from the family-focused Bella Vida Centre in Bryanston, Johannesburg about the many benefits superhero play can have for your child:

Confidence and self-assurance

Superhero play helps a child to identify with their own abilities. When a child wears his caped crusader’s outfit, he feels as if he has all the power and abilities of his chosen superhero.

“Pretending to be a brave superhero can also help children imagine what frightening experiences are like and how they can conquer them,” says Ilze. “Superhero play can make children feel more comfortable with trying new things, as it gives them power and strength when they wear a superhero costume or pretend to be a brave hero.”

Problem-solving skills

Dramatic play with central themes of good and bad, friends and enemies, and power and vulnerability helps children to learn the difference between these concepts and to understand rules. “Pretending to be a superhero can help children to develop problem-solving skills, as they examine lots of possible solutions to a problem,” adds Ilze.

Creativity and language skills

Children learn to be more creative during superhero play. Ilze says superhero play also expands a child’s vocabulary and develops their language skills while he interacts with other children and supervising adults. Superhero play is good in helping a child’s physical development, as he jumps, runs, and actively imitates the superhuman abilities of his heroes.

Social and empathy skills

Preschoolers learn about cooperation and teamwork when they create a story together, discuss how the game is going to work and how to solve problems that may arise. “When a child pretends to be someone else, he imagines how others feel and he becomes aware of other people’s needs, which build on his empathy skills,” concludes Ilze.

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