Fantasy and Reality; Whales and Firetrucks
Young children need fantasy so that they can understand reality; fantasy is a strategy that the brain uses to figure out the world. Although this sounds like a tall tale, when we think about it, fantasy make real sense.
Children have much less information than adults have in order to understand the world around them. Not just little bits, but great big chunks are missing. Trying to get the “big picture” is impossible when so much of it is unknown. In his book How Children Learn, John Holt compares this to trying to put a puzzle together without all the pieces. “Children…are like someone trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle with only 10 percent of the pieces–they have to invent imaginary pieces to fill in all the gaps….They have to make some kind of sense of it right now.” This explains so much of what is going on inside the child’s mind that we can’t see.
I saw a very funny picture of a little boy wearing a fire truck costume. The advice was to dream big and bold. The little boy wanted to be a fire truck when he grew up. Of course, some adult probably questioned if he meant he wanted to be a fire fighter, but no, he wanted to be the truck. This triggered a memory of Big Sister who announced one day that she wanted to be a whale but was quite concerned how she was going to be able to do that “with feets.”
In both cases, the kids were operating with only partial knowledge. They knew when they grew up they would be bigger and there was some sort of choice. They were missing the understanding that people stay as people.To us it seems as if these are fantastic ideas, but to kids they are based in what they know of reality. As John Holt states, “Their fantasy grows out of reality, connects to reality, reaches out to further reality.”
Fantasy will likely be a part of your child’s day. For a play-of-the-day, can you and your child have some fun with fantasy and reality?
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