Many people are unaware of the importance of the fantasy phase of a child’s development, dismissing it as irrelevant because it is ‘not real’. It is because it is not real that makes it so important, ironically. At about age 4-8 years of age children are exploring fantasy, which is why picture books about talking animals and talking toys – or dare I suggest fairies – are so important. The children have no problem accepting the wisdom that these characters impart and get totally engrossed in their adventures. It does not matter that these creatures are not real because it is the story-telling that matters. If a child can suspend belief, why can’t we?
The point is, the child of that age can’t distinguish between what is real and what is not, so everything is believable. Take advantage of this stage. It offers a wealth of opportunity for teaching that ceases to be possible once they have matured into the next phase where they understand what things are set in concrete and what are not.
I’m not alone in believing in the importance of fantasy. I came across a new book recommended to me by Helen Evans which I reproduce here with her synopsis –
Book Review: – Fairy Gardening 101
by Fiona McDonald
Skyhorse publishing 2014
I found this delightful book by accident and just had to buy it. It has beautiful photos of many fairy gardens. Most are simple to make with a child and will inspire you and your child or grandchild. There is a list of tools you will need, a short history of fairies, simple directions for both indoor and outdoor gardens and step by step points to help you create gardens. The emphasis is on using recycled materials and pre-loved containers with little fairies to decorate them.
I have to confess that I haven’t yet read this book but value Helen’s opinion on all things related to small children. Just from reading this short review you can already see the enormous potential. You may wonder why you couldn’t just plant a little garden with the children. Of course you could, but why not imbue the learning with magic? The children will be so much more enthusiastic about the project if you do because it has much more of a sense of purpose for them. Furthermore, they are developing their imaginations, without which their futures will be bleak. They are still going to be learning all the science and maybe maths concepts involved in this project, not to mention all the social aspects, but the sense of purpose is so magnified. To the children it is beyond wonderful, it is magical. When you have such a captive audience, learning is fun and so is the teaching.
I have written before in more detail about this subject. Please go to Issue #42 – The Need For a Highly Developed Imagination – about why fantasy is just so important, not only for today’s pre-schoolers, but for the future of the planet wherein we have adults who have been allowed to fully explore fantasy. How can you truly know reality when you don’t know what fantasy is? And how boring would your life be?