No face glows more than a child that's discovered magic, and that sweet fascination is the part of raising children that I just revel in — the larger-than-life allure of childlike innocence make-believe brings. Experts say that the benefits of kids believing in magic range from kids feeling empowered to encouraging creativity, and honestly, I believe it.
When parents encourage or facilitate magical beliefs, they're helping expand their children's imaginations as well as creating memorable experiences that will last a long after they stop believing. There are even some benefits of kids believing in magic that carry over into adulthood. Nobody is suggesting that outright lying to your kids is OK, but allowing them to believe in magic for the sake of magic can have some serious benefits.
This doesn't even have to mean letting them believe in a mythical character like Santa or the Tooth Fairy. Something as simple as wishing on a star or throwing a penny in a wishing well can be magical experiences for kids that provide the benefits of kids believing in magic. Although their magical beliefs will eventually wane as they age — typically around age 9, according to the experts Romper spoke with — kids who keep the spark of imagination alive as long as possible can reap developmental benefits that can last a lifetime.
1. They Feel Empowered
"Some of the benefits of young boys and girls believing in magic is that they feel empowered. They can be just like Elsa or Anna if they want. They have the power within them to create their worlds and influence the outcomes," Maureen Healy, child psychologist, author of The Emotionally Healthy Child, and parenting coach at Growinghappykids.com, tells Romper.
Although some children will be disappointed when the magic they thought was real turns out to be just an illusion, believing in magic can create the feeling of empowerment. Healy explains that a child who climbs a tree because they think they're Spiderman may fall and break their wrist because it doesn't occur to them that their magic Spidey senses wouldn't save them.
But the empowerment of believing in magic can also serve to create positive outcomes. "For example, a young child often believes in Santa and wants to 'be good' this year so he or she can get gifts on Christmas versus coal in the stocking. This is an upside of believing in magic, especially that a gigantic person like Santa can actually fit through a tiny chimney," Healy says.
2. Their Creativity Can Blossom
"Children can all be imaginative. Of course, some children have greater levels of innovation and creativity, but everyone can be imaginative. The belief in magic or the ability to create something out of nothing is central to being human," Healy explains.
Although she notes that a belief in magic won't change how inherently creative a child is or isn't, she says, "A belief in magic gives a child permission to express their creativity or imagination."
3. They Create Memories & Traditions
"These magical concepts, such as Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy, are open to interpretation and vary family to family. They contribute to fond memories and the creation of traditions among parents and children as they bring us back to the joy we get from those special moments, and give us a sense of security in knowing that we can count on those traditions year to year," Darby Fox, a child and adolescent family therapist practicing in New York tells Romper. "Kids love tradition and frequently carry on childhood traditions as adults with their own families."
These memories and traditions can carry into adulthood for your child, but Healy says that parents can even reap some of the benefits of their child's belief in magic by participating in facilitating a magical experience. "Whether you have a Tooth Fairy tradition or place cookies out for Santa Claus, a child's ability to believe in the unbelievable is part of their innocence, purity and openness, which every adult can benefit from," Healy tells Romper.
4. They Develop A Playful Mindset
Is your child a happy-go-lucky little person who you wish you were more like? This is likely due to the playful mindset that believing in magic can create. "A child's belief in magic can contribute to the development of a playful mindset and a creative energy," Fox tells Romper. "Believing in something like Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy adds a magical quality and energy to their world."
This playful energy is the kind of thing that I wish you could put in a bottle and keep forever. It is an absolutely priceless benefit of your child believing in magic as long as possible.
5. They Bond With Their Siblings
As your kids grow, they will naturally believe in magic less and less. You can keep the magic alive a little longer if they have younger siblings, cousins, or friends who they can help make magic for. Let your teen put that dollar bill under their little brother's pillow after he loses his first tooth, and watch the pride wash over them as they help keep magic alive for the little people in their life.
"There is a developmental timeline for kids and their belief in magic. When kids are young, they naturally have a playful and energetic belief in magic. As kids get older, it can be fun for them to participate in keeping the magic alive for younger siblings," Fox tells Romper. "This type of belief establishes positive outlook on the world that can be a bonding, shared experience for families."
6. They Become Happier Adults
One of my main goals as a parent is to help my kids become happy, well-adjusted adults. Helping them believe in magic is one way to make sure that happens, according to Fox.
"Believing in magic allows for children to have a flexible and curious mindset and creates a sense of wonder. These attributes tie positively into a growth mindset, which allows for possibility, creativity, and playfulness. People who can maintain these qualities as they mature tend to be happier people."
Maureen Healy, child psychologist, author of The Emotionally Healthy Child, and parenting coach at Growinghappykids.com
Darby Fox, child and adolescent family therapist practicing in New York