Super heroes thrive in the mind of young children. In Faris my grandson, they roam and romp joyously. Super heroes fill his play. He creates their roles and playing them give him absolutely, hours of sheer joy. He would be Woody, the cowboy who engaged Buzz Lightyear, the space ranger in a delightful banter or he would be Lightning McQueen, the elegant red, sports car who would whoosh-whoosh round the imaginary race track at lightning speed.
There are heroes and monsters in Faris’ fantasy play. His heroes are super fast and his monsters are super naughty. For a while, at least his hero was Thomas , the tank engine and his monster was Diesel, the diesel engine, who was forever hatching naughty schemes. So where do I fit in, in his scheme of play? Of course, I am in charge of props. Do the trains have enough tracks to run on? Are there enough sheds for the trains to retire in? These props do matter for their presence help to enrich the possibilities of his play.
“Nenek. Can I have Gordon?” He seriously whispered to me one day.
“Who’s Gordon?” I asked. “Nenek! He’s the engine that pulls the express!” “Oh.” I said. Ever since trains came with names like Thomas, Henry and Percy, they have never been the same again. They have choo – chooed their way into children’s heart and vocabulary with relative ease. And I think my money has choo-chooed out with relative ease too. And so like any other loving grandma, off I went to fetch Gordon, the tender engine home. Now he has all the trains in the Thomas series including the troublesome trucks.
Now he is into Capt Awesome. Fortunately a tee, a mask and a cape are all that are needed.
“Nenek. Can you fix this cape for me?” asked Faris one afternoon, handing me two big clothes pegs.
I pondered and said, “A super hero wouldn’t look good with two clothes pegs sticking out of him. What about paper clips?”
He mulled over it for a while and said, “Ok.” I attached the cape and off he went with the white cape flapping behind him. The cape used to be his diaper not too long ago. Now it is playing a grander role – a cape on a super hero’s back!
He came to me again, this time with a piece of paper emblazoned with the letter “F.”
“Can you put this on my back, nenek?” he asked. “Sure.” I said. Superman has the letter “S.” Batman has the Bat logo. So too Faris. He will have the letter “F” on his cape.
What is it about fantasy play that enthralled children? A lot has been said about its developmental potential. But for me seeing Faris at play has driven one important point home. Play, for young children is an important medium for learning but we the adults can help expand the roles and forms of play by suggesting new scenarios.To my grandson a little suggestion is enough for the rest of the play is his to imagine and direct.