Helen Bromley invites you to unleash the positive power of superhero play for some powerful learning outdoors. This is the first in a mini-series of articles from her new Come Alive Superheroes.
Superheroes and superhero play hold enormous fascination for most young children. Using the outdoor area to explore a superhero theme allows children to ‘go large’, being messier, louder and moving around with greater freedom than is possible inside.
Children who are knowledgeable about superheroes understand that physical prowess comes with the territory! Superheroes regularly leap, run, swing, climb and spin, apparently effortlessly. In addition they use skills such as throwing and hurling when carrying out heroic deeds and battling their enemies.
Such physicality therefore becomes a central part of superhero play for many children, particularly boys. Providing a purposeful context for physical play and responding positively to it can build self-esteem and offer many possible lines of development.
The superhero training camp
The outdoor area is the perfect place to create opportunities for children to explore the physical aspects of superhero play. Create a superhero training camp outdoors to provide a safe environment where your superheroes can hone and develop a wide range of skills.
They may need places to practise the following skills:
Jump, leap and ‘fly’
Provide a range of equipment from which children can jump in safety. Teach them how to land with skill, with their knees bent (just like Spiderman, incidentally).
Why not use thin slices of log spaced at appropriate intervals so that children can leap from one to another? Can the children develop ways to record and measure how far they have jumped?
Use balancing beams or equipment such as milk crates for children to practise their balancing skills. Make sure you are available to support less confident children. Encourage the children to help each other too.
Create targets, so that children are encouraged to practise throwing with accuracy. These might be as simple as hoops laid on the ground, or plastic wastepaper baskets.
If you have a suitable tree, or part of a climbing frame that is accessible, then hoops can be hung at a reasonable height, so that children can throw balls through them. This will offer a different kind of experience.
Very simple balls can be made from screwed up newspaper encased in lengths of old tights.
Run with speed
If you have the space available, set aside an area where children can practise running as fast as they can. This can be very exhilarating for some children.
The potential for learning can be extended by adding timing devices so that children can, with the support of an adult, record their speeds and set themselves challenges.
Make superhero shapes and movements
Many superheroes, including Superman, Batman and Spiderman, have iconic ways of both moving and standing. Children love practising these poses, and they often form and integral part of role play.
Make a place where children can safely practise the poses – perhaps a chalked space on the ground, or a large mat. Offer a digital camera so that they can photograph each other.
Punch and kick
These behaviours understandably concern many adults, and it is important to maintain clear boundaries for physical contact between children. Offering safe places to punch and kick is an excellent way to prevent children from hurting each other.
Fill some large bin liners with shredded paper, so that they are bulky, but still light enough to be suspended from a climbing frame or similar structure. Explain to the children that these are the only places where punching can be practised.
Create some simple targets that can also be suspended and set these at a height that children could kick, ensuring that children understand how the equipment is to be used.
Come Alive Superheroes
These ideas are taken from Helen Bromley’s Come Alive Superheroes. Find out more about this fantastic superhero resource.
The next installment in Helen Bromley’s mini-series of superhero play articles will be available soon. Worried you’ll miss out? Follow us on Twitter or join us on Facebook, and we’ll update you as soon as the next article goes live.