I don’t think I’ve ever met a child, or grown up for that matter, who isn’t transfixed, or at least intrigued by, a land of complete fantasy. They come so far removed from our daily reality and trigger that life affirming trait: curiosity. When we are curious, we become hopeful. When we are curious, we become creative. When we are curious, we are living in our truest and most powerful form.
There are so many examples of the fantasy lands that have been created for and enjoyed by both children and adults; from Peter Pan’s Neverland and The Never-Ending Story, to Pan’s Labyrinth and Harry Potter. Fantasy seems to be a genre that doesn’t exclude. It draws everyone in. Perhaps because it presents our daily routines as something other, something else, something unique. Something that isn’t ‘everyday’.
For instance, when it comes to the entrance into these magical, fantasy worlds, there is almost always a portal. Some object through which entry is gained to somewhere so far removed from where you currently are. And that may be the power that fantasy has on children. The opportunity to go somewhere else. Daily life can be stressful for children. There’s so much to learn! Social codes, rules to follow, emotions that sometimes go unheard and misunderstood even by the most well intentioned of adults. But these fantasy worlds offer a place where none of that seems to matter. The rules we are having to learn to live by here aren’t at the forefront when we enter a magical land. And the portals that allow us inside are a great big visual for the transition between here and there. There’s the wardrobe leading to Narnia is a great example. The rabbit hole that Alice jumps down is another.
The beauty of the portal is that it can be anything. A shoe, a cushion, their favourite toy. And it can lead them anywhere. The portal triggers the curiosity. The world on the other side is up to them. There are opportunities for role play. Crawl through a play tunnel and become a superhero. Jump on a stepping stone and land in a world where everything is upside down.
Fantasy lands are also excellent for creating. Dried leaves, cotton wool, animal pictures/stickers, petals, shiny paper, stars. That’s another great thing about fantasy lands. Almost anything can be used because it doesn’t need to ‘make sense’.
If your little one loves constructing things they could try making their own wardrobe portal using a shoebox. Paint it and cut some doors. Place the picture of the land they created on the other side for teddy to go through. You could even paint the land inside the shoe box and use the lid as the portal.
Allowing children to delve into worlds of make believe is fundamental in developing a sense of themselves, growing in confidence and honing that vital life tool – curiosity. With a well exercised sense of curiosity and adventure, they will only keep going far. In life as well as in their view of themselves.
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