Do you believe in magic? My daughter does (she’s 5)! She loves stories about fairies and mermaids. She still asks me sometimes, “Mom, when will I get my fairy wings so I can fly?”
Her grandmother bought her a “magic wand” for Christmas. She waved it in the air and said some magic words. “I think it’s broken…” she said when she was unable to achieve the desired results. It didn’t really seem to phase her though, and she still bounds around the house waving her wand. It’s her preferred method of cleaning.
Part of me struggles with the impulse to get all scientific with her, “realistic” if you will. But magic is such a special thing for children. Her wonder and amazement with fairy tales amaze me. It inspires me to be more creative every day.
“Tell a Fairy Tale Day” is today!
It is celebrated every February 26th.
For children, fairy tales help to spark imagination and creativity, relay morals and, historically, act as cautionary tales. From an excerpt from Neil Gaiman’s lecture “Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming,” he states :
“If you were trapped in an impossible situation, in an unpleasant place, with people who meant you ill, and someone offered you a temporary escape, why wouldn’t you take it? And escapist fiction is just that: fiction that opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with(and books are real places, make no mistake about that); and more importantly, during your escape, books can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour: real things you can take back into your prison. Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real.”
Fairy tales are so important because they capture children’s imaginations at such a crucial time in their development. Not only do fairy tales stimulate imagination and creativity, they also get children to enjoy reading! Research from the Institute of Education at the University of London suggests that “children who read for pleasure are likely to do significantly better at school than their peers.” The research also suggests that reading for pleasure is more important for a child’s cognitive development than their parents’ level of education. Reading for pleasure positively impacts achievement in mathematics as well as vocabulary, spelling, and reading comprehension.
Imagination is also important for children’s development. Studies suggest that imagination develops problem solving skills, increases the capacity to understand events that aren’t directly experienced (such as learning about history, other cultures, and developing empathy), develops abstract thinking skills (thinking symbolically), and builds self-confidence.
Albert Einstein was once asked how we could make our children intelligent. He reportedly replied,
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”