Friday, September 14, 2007
A study at Waterloo University that explored children's storytelling abilities has shown that pre-schoolers are able to immerse themselves into the minds, thoughts and perspectives of a storybook character. I was already well aware of this stunning ability.
During my son's entire enrollment at preschool he had a Batman fixation. He was only interested in toys if they had something to do with Batman. His desire for Batman action figures knew no bounds, and I was dismayed to find that one Batman would not suffice. Batman was no longer the predominantly black and purple caped crusader of my childhood, he came in many different outfits in every color imaginable.
Oh, and every Batman had his own accessories. A green and yellow suited Batman might have a long string with a grappling hook. Other strangely-appareled versions could have boomerangs or rocket launchers. The more strings that were attached and the more tiny missiles it could fire, the better he liked it because it made the toys much more dangerous to innocent family members who might get reeled in by a bat-hook.
You rarely got any intelligible conversation out of the Boy, most discussions ended with him simply stating "I'm Batman", an answer he seemed to think answered all questions. I was used to a lot of attention at the grocery store, as The Boy stood proudly in the cart with a towel tied around his shoulders, announcing to other shoppers "I'm Batman". They were usually quite impressed, and I achieved the rare status of being the mother of a superhero.
But it wasn't until the Christmas party at his preschool that I understood the origin of the Batman obsession. He had a particular friend who was his entire preschool world. For the party, all the parents had purchased gifts to be wrapped and given to Santa to hand out to the children. Of course, The Boy's gift was something Batman-ish. Soon after we arrived, his little chum walked in, dressed in full Batman costume. A novel sight for a Christmas party, I thought. "He won't take it off", his mother complained. Oh, how I knew her pain.
What I didn't know until the Boy and his cohort had scrounged around the hidden recesses of the pre-school, was that in the dress-up box there was a Batman cape with hooded mask attached. The Boy emerged with the cape and kept it on for the entire event, even when he sat on Santa's lap. Santa, of course, already knew that he was Batman (Santa knows everything) and The Boy was quite happy to be recognized. Later, one of his teachers revealed to me that they often had to hide the cape, or my son would wear it all day, every day.
So it was no surprise to me to find that young children can become completely immersed in a storybook character. They didn't need a university study to prove that. What would be more useful to parents is if they did a study on how to get them out of the Batman costume.