Dr. Mario M Montessori gives more insight to play and work in Fantasy and Reality in Children’s Games.
He explains that a child’s spontaneous expressions and behavior in his environment can be divided into two main areas.
1. Autoexpression. Here events develop themselves, from the inner to the external. The child uses play materials as tools to express the results of his inner experiences, the products of his imagination or fantasy. In other words, the child’s inner feelings are exteriorized through use of play materials and games which give meaning to these feelings. This what we generallly call the free game.
The less the materials are complicated, organized, or linked to specific differentiations, the more appropriate they are for the goal. Therefore, clay, sand, water, little pebbles, colors, paper (preferably in large sheets) paints, and so on provide excellent opportunities for playing free games, when fantasy is uppermost in the child’s play.
Fantasy play is a normal part of childhood.
For example, a child with a stick beetween his legs indulges in the fantasy that he is a strong cowboy ….If, instead of the wooden stick he were to have a wooden or real horse, the dream would not become more realistic to him.
The real horse might be more exciting to him, and the child might try to have contact with him, to feed him, to caress him, or to ride him; however, he would be no longer a cowboy, but rather a child in the presence of a big animal, absolutely conscious of their respective proportions and also conscious of his weakness in comparison to the animal.
When real elements are introduced into a child’s fantasy play, the child is really pushed out of fantasy into reality. The wooden stick is anything the child wants it to be. In this case the stick (horse) is the transition between fantasy and realtiy. It keeps the world of reality and fantasy together in the child’s mind.
Whenever a child, alone or in company of other children, is engaged in a game of fantasy, the adult can offer little help. Only the child who plays in this world of fantasy knows exactly how it must be organized and the specific meaning he wants to give each item he uses. The play materials can give his fantasy an aspect of reality without disturbing the imagination with specific qualities: therefore this type of play material must not be distinctive in itself, must not represent reality.
In all the games involving fantasy several aspects of child development can be studied, especially with regard to the emotional components. The child creates such games as a result of his personal experiences, and he proceeds consciously toward their elaboration. However, this type of activity does not provide the child with a precise view of the world in its objective qualities, such as the characteristics of things in the environment and their interrelationsips, or the rules of his enviroment. Through fantasy the child himself gives shapes to everything and fits reality into his make-believe world.
This last passage reminds me when Christopher Robin was leaving the 100 acre wood, Poo Bear, and friends of his fantasy world because he growing up and entering the world of reality. I always thought it was sad he had to leave when he grew up.
Next time, The Organized Game.