We all like some things that aren’t good for us, especially when we’re children. Children love to do slightly naughty things; they love to eat all the chocolate, they love to stay up late… In fact, we all like to do things that aren’t particularly good for us when we’re adults too – we still want to do slightly naughty things, still want to eat all the chocolate, still want to stay up late (although we regret it in the morning)…
So if things we like tend to equal things that are bad for us, where do we stand with fairy stories? Children adore them; give them a prince, a princess, some talking animals, and a happily ever after, and they’re over the moon. And adults have a soft spot for them; they are a reminder of our childhoods.
Which would mean that they are bad for us – that they are bad for our children.
The funny thing is… they’re not. Not in the least. In fact, they are good for children in several specific ways.
There is nothing quite like the imagination of a child. Even the most imaginative of adults can’t come close to the weird and wonderful minds of pre-pubescent kids, and being able to make up stories and games is an essential life skill. It can go so far as to define the kind of career they have in the future. So listening to fairy stories, and going on later to read them, can play a big part in the lives of children and the adults they grow up to become.
Parents do their best. They give children a moral compass and information about right and wrong, but it is the fairy stories that cement it in the little ones’ minds. Fairy stories have a strong moral message – good versus evil, good wins out, and so on – that it is easy for children to remember. That, coupled with the knowledge mum and dad have already given them, means that children are going out into the world with an excellent moral sense behind them.
It may sound surprising, but fairy tales can help children with their critical thinking. They can see the consequences of any actions or decisions that characters may take in these stories. They know that their choices can have profound implications, so it is best if they stop to think before acting (or reacting) in haste.
We often hear in the news that younger and younger children are having mental health issues. We’re not saying that fairy stories can prevent this, but they can perhaps allow children to have a good idea of how to deal with internal conflict – something that can cause mental stress. Children identify with the main character in a fairy story, and those characters tend to win out in the end, even if they are going through hardship. They do it with the help of those around them, whom they have confided in. It’s a good lesson and one that children can easily apply to their own lives.
Children are children for such a small amount of time. They will have enough time to be sensible and grown-up. They will have enough time for worries and life to take over. So when they are little, they need to have fun. It will give them a good base for the rest of their lives, and with a strong foundation, they are sure to grow up to be good people. So even if for no other reason than children love them and they are fun, we should read them fairy stories.