It's a bird, it's a plane... it's a superhero dashing across your living room!
Or was that your preschooler sprinting to the kitchen to snag another yogurt from the fridge? What with the mask, the cape and the extreme speed, who can tell?
Yes, we have a few superhero-obsessed children around here. They play superheroes, dress superheroes, read superheroes, and dream superheroes.
Satisfying their intense craving for all things superhero is not, however, a simple matter, in part because so many superhero movies, comics, and even toys are really aimed at much older kids. Fortunately, amidst the plethora of available superhero items, there are indeed many that are suitable and indeed really wonderful additions to our young children's book and toy collections.
Superheroes once were synonymous with a small number of iconic figures: Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and Wonder Woman come to mind. Today, the whole concept of the superhero has been opened up and re-imagined. Those icons still hold sway, but there is room for a whole lot of other hero-types.
Start, for example, with offbeat books about the most unlikely superheroes, such as Max, the baby son of Captain Lightning and Madame Thunderbolt. Born to a family of superheroes, this baby is late in learning to fly! What will become of him? We also love Eliot Jones, Midnight Superhero who is a bookish child by day, but a daring hero by night. And who can forget Dex the diminutive dachshund who is determined to transform himself into a dashing superhero. How will he do it?
Then there is a genre of lovely books about the superheroes that regular people imagine themselves to be. We are smitten with Lulu the original Ladybug Girl, as well as her buddy Bumblebee Boy. Nothing can stop these two! And then there's Dad. He does seem superhuman at times. You can do anything, Daddy!
In spite of what you may have heard, superheroes have brains as well as brawn. When they are not busy chasing down bad guys, they can even help your little ones learn their Superhero ABCs. On PBS, Word Girl is all about teaching us vocab, and saving the world from the perils of spelling mistakes. And at Superhero School, kids discover that math skills are the key to rescuing their teacher from the ice zombies.
But what superheroes do best of all is expand our little ones' imagination. As a channel for pretend play, they can't be beat. Batgirl and Captain America costumes come out in full force on Halloween, but behind the walls of playrooms and preschools everywhere superheroes are hard at work saving the world all year long. We especially love these design-your-own superhero outfits. They are blessedly gender-neutral, and open to almost any imaginative possibility your little heroes can dream up.
And then there are the action figures! Some kids never leave home without them. And in truth, they travel exceptionally well. From the playground to the bathtub, the backyard, the backseat and the beach, these small heroes have adventures wherever they go. And building play is also more fun with your superhero friends: check out the endless selection of superhero Legos!
While our little caped heroes believe they can brave anything, there are a few things they still need their parents to protect them from. Among those, ironically, many superhero movies. Your child may be the Avengers' greatest fan, but that fandom is best confined to early reader books, action figures, stickers and the like. The movie is just way too scary.
As a pretty fabulous consolation prize, though, we adore The Incredibles. This wonderful, funny movie proves that saving the world is a super-family affair.
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