Kids who play make believe show higher levels of perseverence


While playing make believe may seem silly to those of us who have grown up, it’s actually an important part of childhood development. When I was a kid, I loved playing the part of an adult, imagining I was a professional ballerina or perhaps a courtroom lawyer. I’m not alone. A lot of kids like to play at being their favorite characters from movies or television, and superheroes are always a popular choice. Now, new research indicates that pretending to be someone else can actually improve a kid’s focus in school.

Yep, a study published in the journal “Child Development” suggests that kids can better persevere when they play make believe. Dubbed the “Batman Effect,” researchers found that kids who were pretending to be Batman exhibited greater perseverance when attempting to complete a task.


They reached this conclusion by assigning 180 kids aged 4 to 6 to three groups, including one where they could dress up as Batman, Rapunzel, Dora the Explorer and Bob the Builder. The kids were all given 10 minutes to complete a boring task on a computer, but were also told there was a fun iPad game they could play in a nearby room instead. The kids in costume were told to think of themselves as that character when completing the task. The kids who were dressed up as characters got the most work done.

“Imagining that they’re Batman or another competent, hardworking person could lead children to work harder because they take on the qualities of that character,” study coauthor Rachel White told Fatherly. Allowing and encouraging kids to assume other identities may aid in their development of an essential life skill: persisting in the face of adversity.


“Perseverance is necessary throughout our lives, from children struggling to sound out each letter on the page as they learn to read, to college students studying organic chemistry late into the night,” the researchers wrote. “Whether due to the tedium of the task at hand or the pull of the many more immediate gratifications that abound in our environments, success often requires persistence through some ‘unpleasure.’”

So next time you need your kid to clean their room or buckle down and finish a homework assignment, it may be wise to pull out their Halloween costume and let them do it as their favorite character. You may be impressed with their performance!

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About the Author
Kate Streit
Kate Streit lives in Chicago. She enjoys stand-up comedy, mystery novels, memoirs, summer and pumpkin spice anything. Visit Scripps News to see more of Kate's work.

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