At one point, I thought that when I had kids of my own, I would try to make sure that they grew up with a strong foundation in truth and rational thinking. Maybe I wouldn’t tell them about Santa Claus, or about the Tooth Fairy, or other (potentially) made up things. The more I thought about it, the more I thought what an injustice that would be. For me personally growing up, my imagination enriched my life. The world was more exciting when you could create your own.
Denying that at a young age won’t make the kid any smarter or logical, that’s what growing up is for. What it may do is stifle creative processes and development. (Coincidentally, I started this draft long before I read the following; this is me picking up where I left off, and it just happened to fit perfectly). For my Child Life class, I just read about how important play is for development. It’s away for kids to experiment and problem-solve in ways they can understand and control, in their own “language.” There was a quote from the textbook that I really liked that described play as figuring out “[h]ow close to reality can I portray the separation experience before I feel anxious” (Thompson et al, 148). The separation experience referring to actually parent-child separation in hospitals, but also being representative of any real world dilemma that a child faces. In other words, play is a form of acting out problems, that spares the child the need to directly confront the psychological burden of the actual problem.
Different developmental theorists have different opinions on what play should look like, or whether or not it is beneficial, but it seems like much of the research points to it being a good thing intellectually and psychologically (especially with guidance). And there’s evidence that the ability to suspend reality may be an important part of that.
So I’ll let my kid be a kid, and I’ll probably join in on the fantasies with her. And to be honest, I think we all could probably use a lil more unreality in our lives.
Thompson, R. H. (2018). The handbook of child life: A guide for pediatric psychosocial care. Charles C Thomas Publisher.