LivingWhen do children begin to distinguish fantasy from reality?

When do children begin to distinguish fantasy from reality?

Children, as they grow, gradually enter the world of adults , and with it, the world of objective “reality.”

Because until then, your reality may be another; We refer to the great capacity that children have to fantasize and create parallel worlds.

Surely, when you watch movies with your children, especially if they are young, or if you tell them stories, they are not yet able to distinguish reality from fantasy or invention.

This has to do with his maturity and evolutionary moment, and above all, with his great capacity to imagine. But when do children begin to distinguish fantasy from reality? How to accompany them in this transition? We help you!

“Imagination is the pencil with which the child paints his best adventures”


When do children begin to distinguish fantasy from reality?

According to the psychotherapists Gabriela González and Luis Carlos Flores, creators of the Effective Parenthood Method and founders of Niños de Now, young children, especially before the age of seven, live a world between reality and fantasy .

This makes them able to watch movies where everything seems real to them, although there are logically pieces of fantasy; that is, they cannot distinguish fact from fiction.

Investigations: distinguishing the real from the imagined

On the other hand, Professor Jacqueline Woolley from the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas in Austin, United States, has been in charge of studying children’s thinking and their ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality.

Jacqueline found that, by the age of two and a half , children understand the categories of what is real and what is not, and that over time, they use cues to adapt things like unicorns, ghosts and Santa Claus. to what is real and what is not.

However, it is one thing that they distinguish the categories and the other is that they can identify when things are real and when they are not.

According to the researcher, by the age of 12 children may already have a good ability to differentiate fantasy from reality, and do so in the same way as adults would.

Why don’t they differentiate reality from fantasy?

Children do not differentiate reality from fantasy, when they are still young, because maturely they are not yet ready for it. That is, your brain function still does not allow it; And it is something natural, which is part of their psychological development.

The aforementioned professor and researcher, Jacqueline Woolley, adds in this regard that the fact that the frontal lobe of the brain does not fully develop until the age of 25 could partly explain why children “take time” to distinguish reality from fiction.

Frontal lobe: anticipation and distinction from reality

The frontal lobe is the part of the brain responsible for carrying out executive functions, and these include impulse control and planning (which helps us anticipate all the different aspects of an outcome).

Thus, he claims, children would have an inability to take into account the potential consequences of things and reality, while taking into account potential consequences within their fantasy world.

In this way, while an adult can manage to think about the consequences of both worlds at the same time (reality and fantasy), children would not yet be cognitively ready for it.

How to enter the world of children’s fantasy?

It can be positive for the little ones that we accompany them in their fantasy world, so that, progressively, they can enter the world of reality and distinguish both worlds.

How can we do it? We offer you some guidelines for this:

Participate in their games

It is important that we participate in the games of our children, and that we enter with them in their magical and fantasy world.

Get at their height, or on the ground

If you really want to accompany your child in his games and connect with him, be at his height when you talk , or on the ground if he is playing in it.

Play the fantasy scenes

Children believe in the fantasy world that they create themselves through play and other elements.

For this reason, we encourage you to accompany him by reproducing the scenes that he invents or tries to interpret, for example through symbolic play.

Promote freedom in your games

Encourage your child to create, explore, invent … Do not limit him or try to direct his games. This will help you to stimulate creativity and to be the protagonist of your own story. In addition, it will help him feel closer to you, with greater confidence.

Let yourself be carried away by the logic of their games

The world of games and imagination knows no limits when we are little; Therefore, if you want to stimulate your child and accompany him in his magical world, let yourself be carried away by the logic of his games.

Although it is a logic that is far from the reality of adults , keep in mind that this is part of their evolutionary process and that it is important to respect their rhythm.

Three keys to help you distinguish fantasy and reality

While it is true that imagination, fantasy and magical thinking are ingredients of childhood that benefit children, sometimes the confusion between fact and fiction can cause inconvenience.

On the other hand, as the child gets older, it is important that he gradually learn to distinguish between reality and fantasy. Therefore, as fathers and mothers we can accompany them. In these cases, some ideas that can help us are:

  • Talk to him about real situations : you can take advantage of a moment when he is playing, especially if it is in his fantasy world, to do so. For example, you can ask him how his friends are doing, how is school going …
  • Don’t scold him if he has imaginary friends or if he makes up fictitious situations; thus, it is important to make children reflect on what exists and what does not, but also respecting their rhythm.
  • Encourage him to draw , to capture his reality : it is a good way to convey all that fantasy, and then reflect on it, through the drawing or creation itself.

Photos | Cover (pexels), Image 1 (pixabay), Image 2 (pexels), Image 3 (pixabay), Image 4 (pexels)

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