Fantasy for under 6-year-olds

Yet another oft-repeated discussion on whether to expose under 6-year-olds to fantasy took place in my favourite yahoo-group: Montessori_online.

Aleta Ledendecker made the following superb post:

“Montessori talked about the exclusion of fantasy works in the
early childhood only. There is a vast difference between the mentality of
children in the first period of development and those in the second.
Montessori observed that children have difficulty differentiating fact from
fiction until they are solidly in the second period of development. When we
recall books that we loved as children we are remembering reading them
during our own journey through that second plane of development ­ not from
when we were 3-6!

Regardless of the change in our culture, we need to respect the formation of
the child and the deviations that they acquire. In fact, I would posit that
it is even MORE important for us to filter out fantasy from the EC classroom
because of the influence of today¹s media. As an analogy, I would not
recommend junk food for children just because our culture has embraced it!
No, give them the nutrition they need for both good physical and mental
development.

In the past 30+ years that I have been running my school and teaching, we
have had a no-fantasy policy for the early childhood classroom. That does
not preclude fiction that could be real. It does eliminate talking animals.
Our library is coded so teachers from the EC classroom may choose books from
the shelves without worry that they will inadvertently pick one with fantasy
or elements that could not be real.

We also recommend no commercial television for children under the age of
six. Many parents take this recommendation to heart. The children who grow
up in those families, without exception, develop into individuals with high
levels of creativity. They have not been spoon fed adult generated fantasy
that stifles their creative energies.

The issue of fantasy in the 3-6 classroom is one that is difficult for many
guides to come to grips with, sometimes because of their own favorite books.
It is important to work past our own prejudices, though, so we can prepare
our classrooms to help children become normalized.”

This is SO true.  We try not to watch any TV at all when the children are around and this “forces” them to choose activities to occupy themselves (instead of sitting glued to the goggle-box).  And I am always so astounded by how creative my daughter is. She is constantly doing something with papers, scissors, glue, pencils and staplers.  She made this really cool (albeit rough around the edges) stamp album and she experiments constantly with stuff.

My 5-year-old proved to me how even reading books with talking inaminate objects is dangerous (although I must confess I have lots lying around still).  When he was 3 or 4, I would explain to him, “Cars don’t have eyes, right?” And he would nod in agreement.  Then one day, when reading a book with giraffes in it, he said, “Mommy, giraffes don’t have eyes, right?” and gave me a very “knowing” look!!!!  Although I haven’t removed these wretched fantasy books, I have banned him from watching ALL cartoons and television commercials and the like.  Sigh.  I’d better be careful with the 2-year-old now…..

Update: Oct, 6, 2009: Oh dear, I just realised how boastful the penultimate paragraph sounds.  What I really meant is how blown away I feel that a child can be so creative when adults have so little to with the development of that creativity (other than providing the tools and the space).  Well, guess I can’t help feeling like a proud parent but it really is in each and every child.  Different children display their creativity differently.  Some do it by making connections with numbers, others find interesting solutions to day-to-day problems.  They just need the tools and space to take off!

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1 Response to “Fantasy for under 6-year-olds”


  1. 1 peaceful guide September 27, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    Wow, thank you for sharing that post with us! There is so much truth to those words!


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