By the age of three or four, most children understand the difference between reality and fantasy. They enjoy creating pretend situations for themselves, their friends, and their parents.
Why Fantasy Is Important
Pretending is more than play: it's a major part of a child's development. Fantasy not only develops creative thinking, it's also a way for children to deal with situations and problems that concern them. A child who's afraid of the doctor will pretend to give her doll a shot and tell her, "This won't hurt too much."
Helping Your Child Understand What's Real
There are many opportunities to reinforce the difference between what is real and what isn't. While watching a movie or television show, you can point out that the actors are real people pretending to be characters in the story. Joining your child in pretend play offers another chance to reinforce the idea: You want me to pretend to be the mail carrier. That will be fun.
Can Fantasy Go Too Far?
The danger sign that a child is overly absorbed in his fantasy world is if he loses all interest in friends and other activities and has difficulty leaving pretend play behind. Such a child may need professional help.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.