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The Fantasy World of Children

How invigorating a child’s imagination can be! In the world of fantasy, a child is able to become an astronaut, a nurse, a basketball star, or a missionary to Africa. Pretending allows children to travel, to have superhuman strength, or to have an imaginary friend named Fred.

Parents sometimes become concerned, however, about their child’s ability to distinguish reality from fantasy, or they become afraid that their child pretends too much and will grow up unable to function effectively in the real world. For the most part, those fears are unfounded. Fantasy play gives children the opportunity to integrate elements of the real world into their world of make-believe. At such times, toys can help a child engage in the game of Let’s Pretend. Parents can guide fantasy play by selecting suitable toys for their child. Such toys enable children to drive a car, prepare meals, build a house, fly an airplane, or put out a fire.

Fantasy play can also allow children opportunities to imitate various role models: a teacher when playing school, a pastor when playing church, a mother or father when playing house, a doctor when playing hospital. Such role-playing emphasizes the need for positive role models. It encourages children to see things from a different point of view. Fantasy play sharpens innovative instincts and prepares children for life in an adult world that places a high value on creativity.

There are also some negative aspects to fantasy play. Sometimes children fantasize getting even with those who have been hurtful to them. Such fantasy thinking is allowing sin to have control. The type of fantasy in which one is able to inflict harm on another needs to be addressed and discouraged. In today’s world electronic games frequently foster a type of fantasizing that can involve violent behaviors; physical, emotional, or even sexual abuses; and other godless activity. Parents do well to being alert to these trends and monitoring their child’s electronic game choices.

Although it is quite rare, occasionally the reality of life is so painful that a child retreats into a world of fantasy to escape. This may occur in children who suffer significant amounts of abuse. After time, the world of fantasy becomes their reality. Using fantasy to escape unpleasant realities also needs to be addressed.

God gives us an imagination to enrich our lives. He wants us to develop our creative instincts, using the Ten Commandments as a practical curb and guide. When we encourage our children to use their imaginations through fantasy play, we can help them glorify God’s name.

12N2026_patientparentingFrom Patient Parenting, by John Juern. © 2006 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.