Living Legends, Fanciful Fairy Tales, Mysterious Myths

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales."

"When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking."

Albert Einstein


Read stories to your children and sooner or later you will see those tales woven into the children’s play. Legends, myths and folktales provide some of the most fertile ground for playing pretend. Additionally, the international treasury of stories from these genres forms an intriguing portal to a lifetime interest in cultural geography.

Being deliberate about incorporating the great tradition of legends, fairy tales and myths into your children’s educational adventure is a simple matter of habitually bringing these stories home from the library and bookstore, then providing a few resources to entice children into a world of imagination. Perhaps you feature stories from a different country each month, or you search your local library for every version of Cinderella on their shelves or all the creation myths from around the world. Maybe you enjoy a month of Aesop’s fables or a month of Greek myths.

The seeds of imagination, fed by the rich and fertile soil of legends, fairy tales and myths will produce some fantastic playtime adventures.

Do It!

Some simple resources will go a long way towards enticing imaginary play, and it doesn’t take a PhD in parenthood to observe that the simplest playthings are the most used and most loved. Children never tire of the dress-up basket, the dolls and figures, the puppets and basic creative resources: a varying assortment of large cardboard boxes, tempera paint, face paint, fabric and trim.

Performing for each other is a completely delightful way to engage with the stories shared during family reading time. A roll of tickets from an office supply store and an introduction to the excitement of creating posters and programs for a kid-produced, family play or puppet show adds to the thrill of producing their own show, even if Mom and Dad are the only audience.

The imaginary play item that tops the list is a large square of interesting fabric, hemmed around the edge to prevent fraying, kept in easy reach in a basket. Six to ten different square yards of fabric can be used during play for anything; a cape, a dress, a veil, a pouch, a roof, a wall, a baby blanket, a magic cloak, longer hair, an invisibility shield, a hood or a sash to hold a sword. Shimmery, silky sky blue or black, metallic silver, metallic gold, flowing red, majestic purple, soft green, opaque white. If the fabric can be tied, twisted, wrapped, flung and fluttered, it is perfect. A most precious item is a huge square of thin, somewhat stretchy, colored fabric to be tied to several chairs for a fort, a house, a tent, or scenery. A large piece of red fabric is dramatic, while blue can be used for an ocean or sky.

If you really want to go for it, build a simple puppet theater and make or collect a basketful of puppets.

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