One day, a friend of ours’ three-year-old son, stopped in front of an automatic glass door and said softly: “Open up.” The door obviously opened. We asked him why the doors of the house didn’t do the same. “They don’t understand” was his reply.
In children, magical thinking leads them to imagine that everything is an extension of them, and they attribute to everything around them their own thoughts and feelings. This is because children still do not conceive a reality that is separate to them – they are not yet able to explain all the phenomena around them in a rational way and they are not yet able to differentiate their thoughts, feelings, emotions from those of others.
If a stone, which is on the parapet of a terrace in the evening, is on the ground the next morning, a child may safely assume that during the night the stone has climbed down the parapet, attributing to it the ability to move of its own volition. In the same way, the sun has the power to decide to warm us, to get angry if the cloud covers it; the wind plays with the leaves, and so on.
Magical attributions are not arbitrary inventions but explanations of events. Everything around the child speaks the language of his emotions, which are transferred to the surrounding world. The child’s magical thought fulfils multiple functions: first of all it provides a defence against possible anxiety in the face of the unknown; it can also be propitiatory – the child can look for a way to make a desired event happen through actions that an adult considers ineffective.
Magical thinking is particularly evident in children up to 7 years of age. Later, children begin to adopt adult reasoning and start to understand that magical thinking cannot explain reality or provide plausible explanations for certain events – magical thinking is gradually replaced by logical thinking.
Some recent studies have shown how magical thinking can, if preserved in pre-adolescents and adults, help stimulate creative solutions. How? Because this kind of thinking encourages you to see things from an unconventional perspective, stimulating unusual exits or shortcuts to all kinds of problems.
Encouraging, and giving space to, magical thinking helps keep your innate creativity and empathy alive according to Maryone Taylor, professor of psychology at Oregon University.
This week’s fun-sheets are designed to let your child – and you – keep that magical thinking going, and feed your imagination, creativity and empathy.