Follow the buzz of children’s natural excitement with superheros! Ever popular, superheros provide a playful opportunity to try on powers of all kinds and save the day! Superhero play empowers clients through fantasy &/or play. Using a combination of dramatic play (e.g. dress up, acting out), art interventions, sandtray, narrative, and body-oriented interventions, the client has the opportunity to reconnect to lost parts of themselves and embody their inner hero.
Superhero fantasy play is effective with children and most adolescents though the approach will be significantly different depending on developmental stage. Adults may also respond to the use superheros depending on their interests.
Early childhood (ages 3-7):
Children are often naturally playing out the common “good vs. bad” theme. When the therapist is mindful of this recurring theme, s/he may gently invite the child to find a “character” that can save the day.
Older children (ages 7-11):
Depending on development, this age group will vacillate between some dramatic play and some narrative play. They are they group most likely to use art interventions and participate in structured activities.
Tweens and adolescents (ages 12-17)
Adolescents do respond to superhero play though it often will not involve dramatic play. Developmentally, they are able to abstract information and understand character development and make comparisons to their own lives using a narrative form of therapy.
Some adults also respond to superhero themes in counseling though talk therapy or sand tray are the most likely interventions. Adult hero themes pair well with Jungian and Gestalt therapies (e. g.parts and shadow work/integration).
Do you have the necessary props to facilitate superhero play? The following items are superhero “must-haves”:
1) Nondescript cape material in various colors (red, pink, and/or black cape are most popular)
2) Nondescript masks
3) Directors clapboard
5) Handcuffs or rope
6) Miscellaneous foam swords, shields, etc.
7) Ample room to move!
In addition to dramatic play, consider including superHERO themed items in other areas of your playroom by adding nondescript hero puppets and hero-themed sandtray figures to your sandtray selection.
* The preceding material is from “I can save the day!: superHEROS in Play Therapy” by Dr. Renee Turner. Please contact Dr. Turner to request this training in your area.