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.

 

 

creativity · play

Using play to cover hard news

English: A mugshot of Puppet, S.
Puppet mugshot. Image via Wikipedia

I love this story from Cleveland, OH, about how one news team brought some fun to their news reporting, and a good way of finding a solution to a problem:

It’s courtroom drama crossed with “Sesame Street,” as a television station barred from using cameras during a high-profile corruption trial covers the highlights with a nightly puppet show. It stars a talking squirrel “reporter” who provides the play-by-play in an exaggerated, “you won’t believe this” tone.

“It’s a satirical look at the trial and, again, I think we have it appropriately placed at the end of the newscast,” WOIO news director Dan Salamone said Thursday.

He said the puppets are in addition to the station’s regular coverage of the Akron federal trial of ex-Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora, the longtime Democratic power broker in Cleveland

“It’s not intended in any way to replace any of the serious coverage of the trial,” Salamone said.

With cameras barred from court, the news media has relied on artist sketches of the proceedings inside and daily video of Dimora walking into court with his wife and his defense team.

The station uses the puppets repeating testimony and performing as witnesses, reporters and jurors to detail the case, which began last week and is expected to last three months. The trial has been a daily staple of front-page coverage in The Plain Dealer newspaper and often leads TV newscasts in town.

Read the full story at Talking squirrel puppet reports from high-profile Ohio trial

It’s always nice to see when playfulness gets some attention.

autism · behavior · children · cognition · creativity · mental health · psychology · technology

Using Play and Technology for Therapy

Griffin Wajda and Juan Pablo Hourcade in Iowa City, IA, play a collaborative-storytelling app.

I truly think technology (and play) are underutilized when it comes to all kinds of therapy, partially because it’s expensive, and partially because people don’t know how to implement it. This article in the Wall Street Journal offers a great example of how people are integrating play AND technology into therapy.

Multitouch technology—which turned smartphones, iPads and other tablet computers into consumer sensations—has a new function: therapy for cerebral palsy and autism spectrum disorders, as well as a range of developmental disabilities. Researchers from at least three North American universities, including Iowa, are developing therapeutic applications for multitouch devices. Games developed by the Scientists’ Discovery Room Lab at Harvard University, and by University of Alberta researcher Michelle Annett, encourage children with cerebral palsy and stroke victims to stretch their range of upper arm and wrist motion.

“It’s a very motivating tool for the patients. It’s visual, the feedback is instant and it’s fun,” said Isabel Henderson, vice president of Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital in Edmonton, Canada, where games on a touch-screen table are part of stroke victims’ physical rehabilitation.

The new apps offer patients engaging ways to address their medical conditions over the long term, said Quentin Ranson, an occupational therapist at the Alberta hospital. They also could help reduce the time patients need to spend in expensive traditional therapy, Mr. Ranson said.

Children with cerebral palsy—a group of disorders caused by brain damage before or shortly after birth—work to improve their motor skills and coordination through repetitive exercises like wiping a cloth across a table, stringing beads on a pipe cleaner or throwing a ball back and forth. Patients recovering from stroke do much of the same, stacking cones and flipping cards to help them lift their arms against gravity.

more via the Wall Street Journal.

This is just one example of how using play and the right tools can encourage development and healing.

children · cognition · education · family · learning · technology

Using the Internet as a Learning (and play) Tool

Great article from Cory Doctorow and BoingBoing:

http://www.boingboing.net/2010/11/02/how-i-use-the-intern.html

…my 2.5-year-old daughter and I use my computer as part of our imaginative play and storytelling, using YouTube searches, Flickr image searches, paper story books, toys, and trips around town to play and explore.

Now that she’s more active, she usually requests something – often something from YouTube (we also download her favourite YouTube clips to our laptops, using deturl.com), or she’ll start feeding me keywords to search on, like “doggy and bunny” and we’ll have a look at what comes up. It’s nice sharing a screen with her. She points at things in her video she likes and asks me about them (pausable video is great for this!), or I notice stuff I want to point out to her.

But the fun comes when we incorporate all this into our storytelling play…

This is great that Doctorow is using YouTube as scaffolding to teach his daughter, rather than just plopping her in front of the TV. The interaction is the most important part here, and it’s great that he’s incorporating digital media into the lesson plan, encouraging her to think critically even at a little itty-bitty age. 🙂