"Children have a real need to explore and act out their experiences and feelings, and they will engage in superhero and popular culture play for a number of reasons - to explore identity, gender, and issues around power and control, or simply to try out a different role. They may be curious about death, and want to explore it in a way that isn't too scary. Superhero play can also be about testing physicality and developieng skills for conflict resolution, negotiation and problem solving."
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Although this is an older publication (2009) it remains as pertinent as ever given that the lure of superhero and popular culture play never seems to wane. 'How to support superhero play' is a regular question here on the Foundation Stage Forum and this wonderful book by Anni McTavish provides a wealth of ideas, inspiration and practical tips to help you unleash children's creativity. The book is extremely well laid out, as are the other books in the series, and Anni begins with a clear and forthright introduction. She sets her stall out - children will play superheroes and popular culture games whether you like it or not. You, as a practitioner, can either embrace it and use it as a vehicle through which children's enthusiasm can be harnessed and used across all the EYFS areas [superhero telephone book (in alphabetical order obviously) with a telephone so that you can call Batman and ask for advice? who doesn't want to do that 'Who you gonna call?'). Or alternatively. you can drive yourself crackers trying to stop it. Anni points out that the way forward is by having very clear rules which are understood by everyone and which allow children not to want to play if they don't want to; for example: "If I'm not in your game, don't shoot me".
Throughout the book are activities described in great detail with resource ideas and details of further information included. Having attended one of Anni's courses myself I know that she would be telling us to use the activity description as a guide but to listen and be attentive to where the children decide the play goes - don't stick rigidly to the plan, let the play develop.
I found the lists of resources particularly helpful - it helped me remember that open ended resources are better than prescribed things that can only be used in one way - Anni is adamant that children make whatever 'guns' they require - premade plastic toys from home are not allowed - again we are looking to support childrens' creativity and imagination.
At the end of the book Anni provides an example of a 'policy' that can be adapted to suit your own setting - it is clear and well laid out and will help your staff team and your parents understand the thinking behind allowing this kind of play.
I recommend this book for any setting, for newly qualified staff it will be a stepping stone for their own ideas. For more established staff, it will help them see things afresh and will help them re-evalute what they are doing with the children in their care, and why.