Superpowers as Superheroes

March 19, 2022

One of the things we regularly do in our house with the kids is watch the PBS News Hour – which comes on just after Odd Squad (a favorite show in our house). We love the News Hour – the reporting is global in nature – taking on top news stories both within the US and around the world. And while I am sure many will argue with me, I tend to find it pretty neutral in presentation.

One evening this past fall, Charlie (my seven year old) looked up at me and asked “Mom – why do they always talk about China on the news?” While my initial instinct was to answer with “COVID” – an ever popular answer of most moms these days (no different than screaming Jesus to every answer at bible school) – I held back and replied more thoughtfully, “because they have power.” This conversation became the genesis of our lessons on world Superpowers.

Just what is a Superpower?

Superpowers are countries that directly shape world events. They are able to assert economic power and have the military to back them up.  Today there are three Superpowers: China, Russia and the United States.  Each has their supporting cast of characters – strong in their own right – but these 3 countries are the most powerful.

To illustrate this concept to my kiddos, I went to the toybox and pulled out a handful of their superhero figurines.  First up – Captain America, clearly representing the US. Next, we decided on Thor for Russia. For China, we called upon the powers of Iron Man. 

As I set up our superheroes on the map, my seven year old asked “How come the US is a Superpower but it smaller than Russia & China?” And so to demonstrate the realities of economic power and military strength – I went back to the toy box — and added a few Army men and gold treasure coins to the board. Superpowers have the most most coins in their piggy banks and the most army men on the board. Therefore they are the strongest.

Each superhero, with super human powers has the ability to change the world around them. Our hope is that Superpowers act benevolently, but they don’t always. Do you remember the the scene from the Incredibles where Jack Jack is threatened by Syndrome and he turns into all sorts of crazy destructive forces including fire and a biting monster and ends up free falling from the sky? Just like Jack Jack – when Superpowers feel threatened, or weakened, they assert their power, sometimes in self destructive ways. Sounds a bit familiar with our situation today with Russia, doesn’t it?

A few fun factoids about our Superpowers:

  • The US, China and Russia are 3 of the 5 permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, making them key to maintaining peace and security across the globe. (France & the UK are the other two permanent members)
  • The US and Russia maintain the majority of the world’s stockpiles of nuclear weapons with well over 10K nuclear warheads between the two
  • The United States has the worlds largest economy followed by China…. Russia comes in around #11
  • Russia is the largest natural gas exporter in the world and is second only to the US in untapped Oil Reserves (yes, even more than Saudi Arabia)
  • China’s military spending is growing at an estimated 6% year over year with a large portion focusing on developing new weapons

How they act, how they arm themselves, what they buy, who they buy from… what they do matters to the world around us. So Charlie, why do we see China on the TV all the time?  Well, because they are a Superpower.

Links to Tools Used:
Superheroes & a laminated World Map
Our favorite Globe comes with awesome country cards I use all the time
The Army Men, and Gold Coins – we sourced ours from our Young, Wild & Friedman sensory kit stockpile

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