For kids, believing in Santa Claus is magical; for parents, it’s nostalgic.
Santa represents goodness, giving and joy and believing in him just feels…well, good!
When I strip all that away, though, and discern why I’m really raising my daughter to believe in things like Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy—there’s one fundamental reason:
The development of her imagination.
I believe that indulging children in make-believe is a critical foundation for their imagination and creativity.
The word imagination stems from the Latin word, imago, which means an image or a picture. Imagination is a person’s ability to comprehend images, pictures or ideas. Santa is universal, but he is unique to every boy and girl based on their own unique and wonderful imagination. Ask a group of children to describe Santa to you, how he works his magic or his favorite cookie. I bet you’ll get colorful answers that are all different!
In this article by Psychology Today, it describes the positive effect that stories involving multiple perspectives and the “playful manipulation of ideas and emotions” have on children. They reflect a critical feature of the child’s cognitive and social development. Over the last 75 years, theorists and researchers have identified the values of this type of imaginative play as a vital component in a child’s development.
As a child, I remember hearing thumping on the roof and reindeer bells as I laid in bed on Christmas Eve. As an adult, I now know it was my dad ringing those bells and throwing a basketball on the roof, but for me as a child, it was Santa himself! In my mind, I could visualize the shiny, embellished sleigh landing on my roof and Santa tending to his reindeer. This was my imagination at work.
A vivid imagination knows no limits!
Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
For children, imagination is power. Through imagination, creativity, curiosity, visualization, focus and problem solving are born. These capabilities are worth their weight in gold and their value extends far beyond childhood.
Sure, Santa is just one piece of the puzzle. But he’s an important piece, nonetheless! The development of my own creative mind would have been different without him.
Flying reindeer, tiny elves and a man who flies around the world in one night may be fantasy—but I believe that fantasy is a healthy, and essential, part of childhood!