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Superhero Play Creates Higher-Level Thinking, Builds Vocabulary, Author Says

Superhero play, a staple of recesses everywhere during the early years, can seem overly aggressive to educators and parents, yet much of it can actually be productive if you peel back the layers to look at its components, writes Marica Mitchell in a recent blog post for the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Mitchell, the director of higher education accreditation and program support at the Washington-based NAEYC admits to being "overwhelmed" when her own kids went through the phase, as evildoers were jailed and even murdered in her own home.

But after observing such activities closely, she concluded that such play incorporates higher-level thinking, social responsibility, and democratic ideals.

Superhero play was also a great vocabulary builder: Her children were using words like "camouflage," "potent," "mutant," and "psionic."

Not to mention they also got a lot of physical activity.

"Like with any other type of play, my role was to make sure the superhero play was both physically and emotionally safe," Mitchell wrote. "I prepared an environment that fostered imaginary play. Many of the toys used were made with household items. I also facilitated conversations that addressed ethics. We examined the role of violence as a problem-solving strategy and the lack of female and culturally diverse superheroes. We also talked about the heroes in our family and everyday heroic actions like recycling and sharing."

To learn more about research that supports Mitchell's observations, click here.

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