Too soon for Super Heroes? — Mommy Daze

SuperHeroes02Ever since our oldest son, James, was a baby, he's tried to do things that were too advanced for his age. He would get terribly frustrated and discouraged. I used to scoff at the age labels on the packaging of baby toys, but after watching James at 12 months struggling with a toy meant for an 18-month-old, my husband and I started paying more attention to those labels.

Even now, at nearly 5, when he's struggling with something new, my husband and I still murmur to each-other, “Hmm, must be an 18-month-old toy.” It was eye-opening to be told by James' counselor that his brain tells him he can do something but his fine-motor skills aren't always there yet. He gets frustrated quickly. He's also a stubborn, fiery red-head so he doesn't give up easily or do anything gently. All great qualities, one day, I'm sure.

So now we're reading labels again, but this time it's not for what our children are playing with, but for what they're watching and reading. My concern is that they're becoming interested in things that are more mature than they're ready for, at least in my opinion.

About a year ago, both my boys became very into super heroes. It started when my dad gave them each an Avenger action figure for Christmas. They'd never heard of the Avengers, or really any other super heroes, but they loved playing with the action figures. Then they started spotting anything super hero when we were out and started asking questions. Soon after, I discovered a line of Little Golden Books at the library that gave very simple variations of the super hero stories, including Avengers, Spiderman, Superman and Batman. After that they were all in! Every week we were back at the library picking out new super hero books. They've started accruing more action figures and toys to feed their obsession. They have shirts, hats, socks, shoes and even underwear featuring their favorite characters. There's just something hilarious about having Hulk staring back at me from my little boys' butts.

SuperHeroes01So it's no surprise that when my youngest, Luke, turned 3 this summer, all he wanted was a super hero birthday party, and well, I don't just throw regular birthday parties. I go big. So we threw an all-out party that included a visit from “Ironman” who did super hero training with all the kids and posed for pictures with the moms. We had lots of games based around their favorite heroes, themed food and plenty of comic book décor. The boys were in heaven! And, of course, Luke received lots of thoughtful super-hero-themed gifts including Play-Doh, DUPLO, Imaginext, coloring books, costumes and even a Superman monster truck.

So far everything has been pretty age appropriate, but they're starting to ask for more things that I'm not sure I'm ready for. Are these stories too violent for them? Are the villains too evil? Is it all just too much for my little boys to handle right now?

Specifically they've started watching the animated LEGO Batman movies. I've been okay with them so far because all of the violence is pretty comical, just LEGO pieces flying everywhere. But recently they've been picking out the Superman and Avengers cartoon TV series from the library, which I think are meant for children a little bit older. I've been watching with the boys, and it's definitely more mature content, though again there isn't anything too bad, or is there?

I've been trying to watch their reactions, talk to them about the story lines, and just keep an eye on their behavior to see if what they're watching is having any negative effect. James is pretty hooked, and loves finding books that match the stories he's watched on the shows. Luke loves yelling out the characters that he recognizes but otherwise loses interest after an episode or two, preferring to dress up in his Batman costume and chase me around the house. I have noticed that their imaginative play has become more creative though, setting up their little super hero figures to act out something they've seen or read. So I guess it can't be all bad.

The next big challenge will be deciding when to let our older son start playing the LEGO video games. Yikes!

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Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 4-year-old James and 2-year-old Luke.

Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 4-year-old James and 2-year-old Luke.