The age of fantasy and imagination

We have seen at 2 to 3 years of age an awareness of an ‘I’. Up to that age most children use their name, the term ‘baby’ or its equivalent, to refer to themselves. ‘Baby want apple’; ‘Johnny want water’; ‘Li want mummy’, etc. Then suddenly, ‘I want’ comes the surprise and delight of the observant parent or adult carer.

This change signifies one of the most important stages of child development, accompanied by a shift in behaviours. With humour and subtle but firm handling, this sense of self will have a chance to grow strong and stable before he reaches the next stage.

While 0 to 3 years is the age of paradise, 3 to 5 can be called the golden period of early childhood. Once the 2 to 3 year old crisis is over, young children start to develop strongly in various capacities. The most glowing are the urge to play and the power of fantasy and imagination.

I and the world

From age 3 onwards the child feels himself as separate from the outside world – parents, siblings, friends, objects, the surroundings, other people.

Thus begins a network of inter-relationships – relationships with family members, playmates, all the people he meets – these experiences and the related feelings are reflected in play, the different play situations, how the child plays, the choice of toys and how they are used.

Play – fantasy and imagination

The force of fantasy becomes active between ages 3 and 4 and the child begins to express his creativity through relationships with toys. Young children before the age of 2 and a half mostly play alongside each other rather than with each other. Then interactions take place, gradually more and more toward 4 years and older.

From 3 to 5 tears, children’s play is object-stimulated. The child will use anything that happens to be around to enact or express his need or the sight or touch of a toy will trigger the remembered experience of something he has seen and activate his imagination. The toys thus determine the direction of his play. The child is at the peak of his creative and imaginative capacity at this age. He will play all day without stopping to eat or rest if nobody reminds him. It is ‘play for play’s sake’; results are not as important as the experience of playing. Often children will knock down the magnificent castle they have just completed to start immediately on another project. The impetus for play comes from the objects at hand and from previous experiences of the surroundings.