First off, I love this prompt! Thank you Daily Post for keeping those creative wheels turning!
That being said, this reminds me of a verse from one of my favorite songs by Saul Williams, Black Stacy: . . .used to rank the girls between one and ten, the highest rank always got to be my pillow’s pretend. Now I apologize to every high-ranker, but then again you taught me how to dream and so I also thank yah . . .
Imagination is important and, like any skill, it has to be taught. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, it doesn’t necessitate myths about bunnies or large men climbing down chimneys, but these myths do help teach children to engage in imaginative play. Given that children are often crushed by the realization that these things are not real, I’m now going to have to ask the question as to whether or not these myths do more to damage the development of imagination than they do to help it–then again, the same could be said of the World and growing up in general.
A child’s experience of the world before the age of three is very literal. They accept what you tell them as truth. At around three years of age their brains are developed enough to begin imaginative play, to take what is handed to them and mold it into their own thing, to put on a mailman hat and pretend they are employed by the Postal Service. At the same time, children at this age cannot distinguish between their imagination and reality nearly as well as a grown adult. Their dreams will seem real to them, and can become adopted as a real experience in their mind (so watch what you let your children watch at this stage of development, they experience it as though it is actually happening to them). It is natural for this tendency to disappear as children grow (when it doesn’t, mental illness can result). This happens gradually, otherwise most people could pinpoint the day they stopped believing they were actually delivering the mail and realized it was all simply make-believe. As a preteen I remember experiencing moments when I truly missed being able to immerse myself in an activity so deeply that I became it.
That is, until I began to write again.
I started writing at a very young age, and I think it might have kept my ability to fully immerse myself in imagination going a little longer than is normal. I stopped between 5th and 10th grade. When I took the activity up again I was delighted to realize that I could still immerse myself in these moments. While I was writing the stories felt real, but when I was finished I could pack them away neatly as something from the realms of my imagination. I soon began to realize that reading is what helped me to maintain this ability. Reading affects a person’s brain in a completely different way than video games, television, and other forms of entertainment–this is still being studied, and it speaks highly to the power of the written word.
What does all of this rambling have to do with Santa Clause? To put it simply: imagination develops with our brains. At two we are not capable of the same forms of imaginative play as we are at three, and so on. It is important to nurture imagination at each stage of development, and to lay foundations for the next stage of development as we go (this is true for the development of all cognitive functioning). I don’t feel that it is harmless fiction or a pointless justification for lying to children: I feel that it is one way (out of many) to lay the groundwork for future development of the brain’s ability to use imagination as a tool for creativity.
Yes, it is difficult for a child to learn that there is no such thing as Santa Clause, but life is full of difficulty. It’s all part of falling down and getting back up again. Kids don’t have it easy, just hand a four year old an over-sized pencil and begin teaching him how to write his own name and you will see what I mean. Even infants struggle to progress through developmental milestones, and they express great joy when they reach one! Telling your children about Santa Clause gives them something to believe in and a story to expound upon; it teaches them how to hope by giving them one night a year when something magical is supposed to happen; it teaches them how to cope when they realize the world is not what they initially thought it to be; it teaches them to reason as they work out why Santa Clause is impossible and come to the conclusion that they’ve been hoodwinked; and it teaches them to question authority figures and the information they are handed at face value. Didn’t realize one little bedtime story could do all of that, did you? Well, it can (so read to your children!).
I will leave off this post with a poem from an anonymous author which is hanging on the wall of my mother’s childcare:
I tried to teach my child with books
He gave me only passing looks
I tried to teach my child with words
They passed him by often unheard
In frustration I soon turned aside
How do I teach this child I cried
In my hand he placed the key
Come, he said, play with me.
I typed this poem from memory and may have left out some verses, but the meaning still comes through!
This a really cool academic paper from the Journal of Neuroscience which discusses a study of the correlation between a person’s ability to distinguish between reality and fiction and their neuroanatomical makeup.
Daily Post Links:
- Daily Post: Fantasy | tel-uh-vizh-uh-ner-ee
- Fiction Isn’t A Lie,But Maybe You’re Liars. | Natalie Elizabeth Beech
- Daily Prompt: Fantasy « Mama Bear Musings
- Toothfairy Tales | Living Young & Wild & Free
- pixie dust and elfin tales | Right Down My Alley
- Fantasmagorical | Hope* the happy hugger
- Tooth fairies and all that jazz | I solemnly swear i am upto no good!
- These Peeps are Making Me Dizzy « Sorta-Ginger
- “You Can’t Handle The Truth!” | The Jittery Goat
- Daily Prompt: Fantasy | My unsorted thoughts
- Daily Prompt: Fantasy | بيسان
- Fantasy and Happy Endings | Beyond Beauty Tips
- Imagine for Hope | Chasing The Bubble
- Harmless childhood fantasy or blatant lying? | Being Special
- My Childhood Was Net Better | Never Stationary
- Daily Prompt: Fantasy Lies to Survive | Lines by Linda
- a daily prompt Tug-Of-War | thematticuskingdom
- Childhood Fables: Yay or nay? | Stuphblog
- Stories on the rock | Spunky Wayfarer
- Trust me | The Daily Dilly Dally
- Daily Prompt: Fantasy | Basically Beyond Basic
- How My Childhood Insecurities Has Made Me a Dreamer | Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Happiness
- Cupid Floating Over Rivers of Sands, Floods and Gust, Hear Me, Hear Me. | Share, My Dad Says.
- A li’l Fantasy takes the truth a long way… | Pigments of Life
- Mad Molly | Mind of a Mouse
- Santa’s not real? | polysyllabic profundities
- Daily Prompt: Ho-Ho-Huh? | One Starving Activist
- Fantasies, when the truth isn’t good enough. | The Nameless One
- One of life’s dreamers… | sat n’ all that
- Pass the mini eggs | theloneshewolf
- Fantasy or Reality, Childhood Tales | thelissachronicles
- Daily Prompt: Fantasy | My Atheist Blog
- Fantasy. Lies. Who cares? | jaycee68
- Darn lies… | Hasta Que mi Corazón Explote…
- Daily Prompt: Fantasy | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
- Pants on Fire | Ald+R
- Ain’t nowt wrong with a bit of fantasy | Random Encounters of an Inquisitive Mind
- The whole tooth and nothing but the tooth. | Paul Scribbles
- Daily Prompt: Fantasy (I’m Thankful for Those Little Fairy Tales) | Creative Mysteries
- The Easter Bunny and Other Life Characters | ARay of Sunshine
- Daily Prompt: Fantasy | Daddy’s Naughty Little Girl
- The One with Santa Claus in March | Crazy As Normal
- “The tooth fairy sounded kind of like dad” | Caring and Creating
- Daily Prompt: Fantasy Two days in a row | My Blog
- oh come on, let the kids imagination run wild… | thoughtsofrkh
- Life is Just a Fantasy. Can You Live This Fantasy Life? | Happy Monkey Land and Other Musings on Life