behavior · children · cognition · education · emotion · mental health · play · Social

How Playing Superheroes Can Stop Bullying

red robot hero pose at windowEspecially with the increased output of Hollywood superhero movies these days, it can be easy to think of them as nothing more than shallow entertainment. However, the powerful storytelling and archetype of the superhero is something that appeals to many of us on a deeper level; it teaches us about standing up for those in need. My husband and I used this archetype recently with our own kids.

My elder son and daughter attend the same preschool, and unfortunately there was an increase in bullying behavior recently. This is developmentally typical for this age, and it also provides a good opportunity for learning how to deal with bullies in the “real world.” Kids have to learn how to respond to mean or bullying behavior, just like they need to learn how to say no when a friend wants to play house or play fight and they don’t (and don’t get me started on how adults need to learn the difference between bullying and roughhousing! That is for a later post). Kids who are not the target of bullying also need to learn how to respond when they see it. Often they will ignore it so as not to become a target themselves, or they will join in. It does not mean they are malicious kids, they are simply trying out behaviors they see.

But we asked our kids to go a step further, and not just ignore but try to help.

When we heard this was going on, we sat down with them and talked with them about why the behavior wasn’t okay, were they targets, were they participating, and did they feel safe. Then my husband told them, “You are both very strong, and I want you to try something; I want you to stand up to anyone you see picking on a kid in your class who may not feel strong, who is getting bullied. I want you to support them, even if they are not your best friend. Can you do that?”

My daughter nodded her head in understanding, but my son, who is only 3, wasn’t exactly sure what Dad meant. My husband tried to explain it again, but started getting more complicated in his wording, and I could see Keir’s eyes start to glaze over in confusion. But I realized my husband was describing something very familiar to our son.

“We want you to be a superhero,” I interjected. My son loves superheroes (and bad guys like Darth Vader, but it’s hard to have one without the other). His eyes lit up. My husband immediately caught on to where I was going.

“That’s right. Superheroes stand up to bad guys and bullies and protect their friends, even people who are not their friends,” he explained. “Even if nobody else is, in fact because nobody else is, they stand up for those who need help. Can you be like a superhero?”

green lantern duckie hero toyMy son seemed frankly a little shocked by the idea that HE, a little guy, could be a superhero in real life. But he also seemed willing to give it a try.

By reading stories and playing superhero (and bad guys), both my kids understood what it meant to stand up to bullying and supporting and defending your friends without even really “knowing” it . The hero archetype is a valuable one; through reading about it and playing one we learn to be brave for ourselves and others, and that sometimes we fight the battles nobody else wants to.

The next morning, I helped my kids bundle up against the cold morning, saying, “all right, let’s get our superhero outfits on.” As they trundled out the door to school with their dad, I called out, “good luck, little superheroes!” At pick-up that day, I asked the usual questions – what did you work on? Who did you sit with at lunch?

My daughter answered, “I asked [kid often being bullied] to play with me, and [kid who often bullies] to sit with me at lunch.”

I think she’s embodied being a compassionate superhero better than I have. But then, she and her brother play/practice being superheroes a lot.

 

 

behavior · children · community · creativity · culture · play

Photographer Mark Neville explores childhood play after commission by The Foundling Museum – British Journal of Photography

At a time when up to 13 million children have been internally displaced as a result of armed conflict, photographer Mark Neville presents a series of images of children at play in diverse environments around the world.

Immersing himself in communities from Port Glasgow to North London, and in the war zones of Afghanistan and Ukraine, the series is a celebration of the thing that all children, regardless of their environment do – play.

Read more here: Photographer Mark Neville explores childhood play after commission by The Foundling Museum – British Journal of Photography

What a fantastic project, and a great way to showcase the innate need for children to play and the resourcefulness of children to play even in the harshest of conditions.

behavior · play · psychology · work

6 Ways to Integrate Play Into the Workplace | Inc.com

I could, and will, write a whole blog post about just the first sentence of this article.

But I’ll just let you read the whole piece and save that for another day.

Play has a PR problem. Some think of play as frivolous –- a distraction, or worse, a waste of time. In the office, play is often regarded as a break from “real work.” But what if the opposite of play isn’t work, it’s boredom? What if work could actually benefit from play?

As a partner at IDEO, I help instill a playful culture, not only in mindset, but also in our daily behaviors. Play allows us to experiment, empathize and take creative risks. Ask anyone who works at IDEO — having play engrained in our culture makes it an incredibly satisfying place to work. It keeps us engaged in our projects and makes us better innovators.

In preparing to teach a new online course on IDEO U, I’ve been thinking about the behaviors of play that have allowed our team to be successful in developing and executing ideas to meet the needs of a particularly tough group of consumers: kids and their parents. These six behaviors not only manifest themselves in the products we create, but also in our interactions as designers, and I believe they can have a profound impact on every organization’s ability to innovate.

read what they are and how to incorporate them into the work space via 6 Ways to Integrate Play Into the Workplace | Inc.com.

What have you done to incorporate play into your own work life?

community · environment · play · Social

Fear, Traffic Largest Inhibitors of Outdoor Play in UK

This makes me sad to see that fear is stopping a lot of kids from playing outdoors in the U.K. From the national organization Play England:

Traffic and a fear of strangers are preventing children from playing outdoors, new research released for Playday 2012 has found. Almost half (49%) of parents report that fear of strangers stops their children from playing out, while 46% say traffic and almost a third (31%) highlight fear of accident and injury as barriers to outdoor play.

The findings of the survey have been released today as an estimated half-a-million children and families nationwide celebrate Playday- the national day for play in the UK, held this year on Wednesday 1st August. Around 500 community events are taking place across the UK to celebrate 25 years of the campaign, which raises awareness about children’s right to play and the importance of play for children’s health, wellbeing and happiness.

The Playday 2012 theme isGet out and play! The campaign, which is co-ordinated by Play England (part of the National Children’s Bureau), Play Wales, Play Scotland and PlayBoard Northern Ireland has gone from strength-to-strength since its conception in London in 1987, when the first events were held to raise awareness about the effects of cuts to local play services.

Cath Prisk, Director of Play England, said: “Simply playing outside should be a normal, everyday event for all children. If we want to foster the next generation of Olympians and sports stars, then we need children with confidence, who love being active and are confident in tackling challenges. If parents are too afraid to let their children play out – because of fear of strangers, traffic or their children having accidents – then we as a society need to address this fear. Whether that’s a community living in a cul-de-sac agreeing children will be playing out every day, a street applying to the council to close the road for play regularly, or residents volunteering to help local play projects reach more children, we can all do our bit to make sure every day is a Playday.”

Mike Greenaway, Director of Play Wales, said: ‘… As a society we have developed an irrational fear that our children are unsafe outside. Compound this with the domination of cars and their drivers, and the world outside the front door doesn’t look particularly attractive for anyone who wants to play there … and children regularly tell us that outside is where they want to play. Children value time, quality places and freedom to play in their own way; we need to support them, recognise that for their wellbeing, they need to play outside and that it’s safer than we think.’

Read the full release.

I am glad, however, that the U.K. seems to be taking play more seriously than the U.S.; just the fact that they have a Play Day (August 1), is pretty cool. And the Quote from Mike Greenaway is as accurate for the U.S. as it is for the U.K.: serious crime has actually been decreasing since the early 1990s.

Thankfully where I grew up was pretty rural, so as long as we were within whistle-shot (my mom would blow a whistle rather than yell), we could roam as far and wide as we wanted. What rules did your parents have about playing outside? What rules do you have for kids you are in charge of (kids, nieces and nephews, neighbor kids, grandkids, etc.)? Leave a note in the comment below.