I have been entertaining children for over 17 years and I have noticed a very interesting thing: children have often been denied the delicious safe scare that the bad guy in brings. Today’s very well meaning parents have not wanted to expose their little ones to the Big Bad Wolf or the Wicked Witch because they don’t want their child to be frightened or traumatised. Up to the age of 2, I recommend staying safe and sticking to a non scary show such as my Bobby Bunny Show which is specifically designed for the very young realists that are the under 2’s, as an eminent child specialist, Dr Robert Needlman explains:
Even though the roots of fantasy stretch back into early childhood, children begin life as realists. Infants only view objects for what they are: a block is a block, a stick is a stick. Give a one-year-old a telephone and he might babble into it, but he won’t talk into a toy car or a shoe. It’s only later, between about 18 and 24 months that children start to understand symbolism–that is, that one thing can stand for something else. Symbolic thinking sparks an explosion of language development as children realize that every object and action is connected to a word or phrase. Robert Needlman M.D F. A . A. P
For confident children of two and above, traditional fairy tales can bring a wealth of wonder , providing a rich source of fantasy, spectacular visual imagery and a less obvious and fairly serious bonus. I offer sessions with puppets and props from my story telling apron series, including such tales as Thumbelina ( the joy of the teeny tiny) and the dysfunctional family yarn that is Cinderella amongst others.
Children’s literature has been largely sanitised (with the notable exception of the ever popular Harry Potter) to reflect the real world around us rather than the fantasy presented in traditional tales. As interesting as real life can be, it can also be very cruel and unforgiving.
How do we prepare our children for the harshness of real life experiences that they are bound one day to face in a manner that they can digest and assimilate?
The telling of fairy tales, complete with heroes, villains and ‘happy ever after’s’ can provide children with a framework of preparedness in symbolic form.
Consider the story of Hansel and Gretel where a small boy and his sister are abandoned by their mother and father. The children use their resourcefulness to outwit an old hag and find their way back to the father and restore the relationship to a happy ever after. This story reflects the struggle that all children face, to feel powerful in a big, often scary world. So, fantasy speaks to us on a very basic level, about what it means to become powerful, that is, to grow up.
Freudian Psychologist, Bruno Bettelheim in his book, Uses of Enchantment ( 1977) states:
Contrary to the ancient myth, wisdom does not burst forth fully developed like Athena out of ’s head; it is built up, small step by small step, from most irrational beginnings. Only in adulthood can an intelligent understanding of the meaning of one’s existence in this world be gained from one’s experiences in it. Unfortunately, too many parents want their children’s minds to function as their own do—as if mature understanding of ourselves and the world, and our ideas about the meaning of life, did not have to develop as slowly as our bodies and minds.
….. Just because his life is often bewildering to him, the child needs even more to be given the chance to understand himself in this complex world with which he must learn to cope. To be able to do so, the child must be helped to make some coherent sense out of the turmoil of his feelings. He needs ideas on how to bring his inner house into order, and on that basis be able to create order in his life. He needs—and this hardly requires
emphasis at this moment in our history—a moral education which subtly, and by implication only, conveys to him the advantages of moral behavior, not through abstract ethical concepts but through that which seems tangibly right and therefore meaningful to him.
The child finds this kind of meaning through fairy tales…
I strongly believe we need to bring
If you feel the same way, I have a few traditional ( and sometimes scary thrilling) tales to offer at Diane’s Puppets.