It is widely known that children are constantly learning through play. Furthermore, it is accepted that children are more likely to engage in play activities if they are based on topics that hold their interest. Thanks to a surge in the popularity of superhero movies, children cannot help but be exposed to superhero figures in the media and in advertisements. This is particularly prevalent in toy advertisements, and some of the top selling toys of the last year were superhero action figures. With 2015 seeing the release of the second Avengers movie, as well as a new Batman v Superman movie, this trend is only going to get stronger.
Children are not only willing, but actively wishing to engage in play with action figures. This presents an opportunity for parents. Playing with action figures can have many benefits to a child’s development. Action figure play requires an active imagination. Creative or imaginary play is an important aspect of play that should be encouraged where possible. As action figures cannot talk for themselves, children must give them a voice. This prompts the child to develop the skills to act in role as a character. Similarly, they must learn the skills to develop the drama out of role, in order to shape the storyline.
Where possible, parents should look to involve themselves in this type of play. However, it is important to encourage child led play. Children should drive the narrative of this creative play, while the adult should react in an encouraging and positive manner. Enthusiasm and support for the child’s creativity helps foster an active imagination. Children are prone to reenacting familiar storylines in play. When this happens, parents should encourage the child to adapt the storyline using their own imagination.
For added benefit, parents should consider action figures that require assembly (like those Gundam Series), rather than ready-made figures. This is not always age or ability appropriate. For example, parents should take care when considering a LEGO style action figure for children, as there is not only a choking risk, but little benefit when a child is unable to self-assemble. However, when children are at a stage that they can assemble their own toys, this should always be encouraged. Construction based activities are beneficial actions for the development of fine motor skills. Parents may need to model or scaffold these assemblies at first, but once observed the child should be able to attempt to complete the task themselves.