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Difference between imagination and fantasy in Montessori

Carlotta Cerri

You’ve probably read quite a few times on my blog and Instagram that I prefer Oliver and Emily to read books and watch videos related to reality. If they watch a movie, I like it to be a documentary (lately we love Chimpanzee by Disney Nature); if they watch a cartoon, I like it to be as realistic as possible (Curious George is great, the monkey doesn’t talk, the subjects are all about the real world, and each episode teaches curiosity and problem solving skills); if they read a book, I prefer it not to be a fantasy story.

Today I’d like to tell you the reason why and to do so I’ll borrow Cristina Tebar’s words from If you’re interested, you can read her post: Imaginación y Fantasia en Montessori (also in Spanish).

And here’s a quick summary for you:

  • Imagination and fantasy are not the same thing: imagination comes from the mind of the child; fantasy comes from the outside world.
  • Montessori is not against fantasy, it actually encourages it from when the child is 5-6 yo
  • Before 5-6 years old, the child's mind is not prepared for abstract thinking, so he can't differentiate fantasy from reality.
  • After 5-6 years old, the child's mind start thinking abstractly so it can process fantasy stories.
  • We adults want to expose them to fantasy because we like it ourselves, but they don't need it.
  • We adults think it's better to introduce fantasy stories when children are young so they'll still believe them, but it's quite the opposite: it's better to introduce them when their mind ir ready for abstract thinking (5-6 years old).
  • Ways to encourage imagination, and limit fantasy before 5-6 yo: realistic books, images, paintings, clothing, toys; talk about the real world; answer their questions honestly.

PS. On the same subject, you might also be interested in how we handle traditions full of fantasy characters, like Christmas in Montessori.

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