Imagination is a wonderful thing! It allows us to come up with great ideas that can change the world we live in. What if Thomas Edison had never imagined the light bulb or if the Wright brothers never dreamed of flying. Our world would certainly be a boring place without imagination. I recently had a parent, however, ask me this question:
How do I help my child understand the difference between fact and fiction?
What a great question! This parent was particularly interested because his 4 year old was asking if something he had seen on T.V. was real. How could this parent explain that something his child saw in a film was not real without leading the child to believe other things such as Bible stories were not real.
Let’s first look at what the experts say. Here is some information I learned from scholastic.com.
- For infants if they don’t see it, it doesn’t exist
- As children develop in the area of memory, the previous stage will vanish. However, they still cannot distinguish if say a puppet is real or if it is mommy’s voice making it talk. Toddler’s often have a seeing is believing mentality. This is why they will cry if you play the “I got your nose game”.
- By the age of two, children start to develop their own theories and start discovering things on their own. A two year old my grab your hand and see that what he thought was his nose was really just your thumb. They may have some irrational fears about things they can’t explain.
- At the age of 3 and 4, children engage in “magical thinking”. The thinking that wishes come true and that they have superpowers are all a part of growing up and seeing how their world fits together. You may enjoy lot of fun times with them eating imaginary cookies or watching them fly around the room with their super hero cape on.
- At the age of 5 and 6 children will start to ask more questions about what is fact and what is fiction. But don’t steal all of the imagination away. They will still use imaginary play for years to work through scenarios and to solve problems.
So the little boy from our question above is right on track with his developmental stage. As children grow their reality of the world around them changes also. These little preschoolers still have lots to learn, but they won’t do it all at once.
I remember after the first Toy Story movie came out I had a little bit of an over active imagination and treated my toys a little nicer. Yes I still have toys. In my office I am surrounded by bright colored fidgets, my Curious George, and Madeline doll collections. if it is fun, i like it! I guess that is one reason I always loved children’s ministry and the reason I am so young at heart:)
I understand why they use the term magical thinking, but at the rate that “magic” things have been encroaching on childhood, I would choose to distinguish this type of childhood behavior as wonder or pretend.
So if you are like this dad and are still wondering how to help your child understand fact verses fiction, I will tell you what I told him.
Have an on going discussion about the words pretend, imagine, and real.
This is just my advice from being a mom and trying to raise up kids who love Jesus and know that He is real. I am not an expert on the preschool mind. That is just my disclaimer that the following text is my opinion. You can take the advice or not, It is completely up to you.
Take advantage of your child’s questions and use them as learning opportunities. Make sure to include God in all your conversations.
Imagination is when we think about something we don’t have, somewhere we would like to go, or something we would like to do and we imagine or think of what it would be like. Pretending is when we act like we are doing what we imagined.
Taking a rocket ship ride!
We could imagine that we went to the moon on a rocket..What do you imagine it would look like, feel like, or smell like. What would we do if we were to go to the moon? Let’s imagine some ideas about what we would eat, would we take a picnic basket, what would we put in it?
Now let’s pretend that we are going to the moon!
Then you could act out the scene or story you just made up with dramatic play. You may even imagine some new things along the way.
We REALLY had fun flying to the moon, but we REALLY didn’t go did we…no, we were just pretending.
Act out a FAVORITE Bible Story
All kids love David and Goliath, who doesn’t want to be the hero that chops off the giants head, right? Have a conversation maybe around a bedtime story. Read the story of David and Goliath and say,”Did you know that all the stories in the Bible are REALLY REAL! That means they are true and they REALLY happened. Can you imagine what it might have been like if you were on the battle field that day and saw Goliath? Would you have been brave like David or do you think you might have been afraid? I might have been a little bit afraid. but i would like to imagine that I was as brave as David. Would you like to act out that story with me?.Who would you like to pretend to be, David or Goliath?
It might be fun to let your child be Goliath and stand on the bed. When you throw your pretend stone from your pretend slingshot, he can fall back on the bed and get tucked in to go to sleep. (well, maybe after a few times!)
God has the best imagination
Read the story of Creation with your child. Pray before you read the Bible a short prayer thanking God that his Word is REAL and that the stories in the Bible REALLY happened.
Did you know that God loves to imagine! The greatest thing about God is that when He imagines things they can become REAL. Guess what, the Bible says that God imagined you and me before we were even born. In our story God imagined all sorts of animals and then He made them become REAL. Which one was your favorite animal? Adam got to name all of the animals. If you had gotten to name them, what names do you think you would have come up with? If we imagined a world what do you think it would look like? Draw a picture of the world you imagined. Our picture is real, but the place with drew is just pretend, right?
Use you own IMAGINATION
Prayerfully consider how to talk about these things with your child. They will never be short of questions to ask you.The Holy Spirit will open up doors of opportunity for you to teach and guide your children along the right path. Your example on the things that you believe will have the greatest impact on their lives, so share you faith whenever you get the chance.
Listen to your child
Listen to your child especially if there is fear involving something they believe is REAL. For more information check out How to Calm Your Child’s Nighttime Fears: Slaying the Monster Under the Bed. If your child tells you he sees or feels something in his bedroom at night, don’t just dismiss it. It may just be their imagination, but to them it is real. Treat the situation as though there really is something there. Don’t show fear, but empower your child with the knowledge of God’s Word and very REAL power and protection from anything that would try to look or sound scary. When we say Jesus name, everything that is not like Him as to leave.
More on that to come.
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