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Creative 6 year old's imagination being discouraged in school

post #1 of 84
Thread Starter 

I am deeply troubled about my daughter's first grade teachers/school. MY DD has an amazing imagination and she has turned her doll "real" and calls her her sister. We know she knows the difference, she will refer to her as a doll when she is relaxed and doesn't have to defend her creation.

 

She started at a new school this year; it's an independent school if that makes a difference. Her teacher called us into a meeting after a couple weeks to ask us about the background. She wanted to discuss it with the school psychologist because she had never experienced this before and believed that by 6 years old, children grow out of this phase.

 

My daughter came home yesterday telling me that the assistant teacher says that she doesn't believe her, she knows she's just pretending, and that things can't really turn real.

 

I wrote a seething letter to the teacher. Why would 1st grade teachers want to limit my daughter's imagination? In fact, my DD even said when her teacher says this "it takes away from her imagination" I'm so glad that my DD has enough confidence to know better.

 

My question is, are there articles or books that are recommended to support how to raise my creative daughter even when her school wants to discourage it? Also, has anyone else had an experience similar to this?

post #2 of 84

I can't think of any articles on this subject.  

 

But, honestly, I think i'd tell her to stop saying it at school.  I don't know if she's talking about it a lot, or just writing stories about it.  Obviously, it has the teacher concerned enough to intervene, so perhaps it is interfering with her work or social life?

 

I have a daycare boy who is much younger.. he just turned three.  He always wants people to call him a puppy.  He refers to himself as Puppy.  "Puppy needs a snack"  "Puppy can go outside???"  But, he also licks peoples legs and shoes, and he crawls on the floor all the time.   We took the "wait and it will go away" approach, but it didn't.  So, now we are shutting it down as soon as it starts.  Mom is a little harsher than I would like, but he's her son...so she knows best.  

 

But, it is interfering with his social life.  The other kids just walk away from him and he's often excluded from what the other kids are playing because he can't/won't switch gears and play what anybody else is playing.  If "puppy" doesn't fit into their play, he's left out.  

 

At this age,  girls know "you don't have a sister...you are lying".  Even if she's just wishing, or pretending, not really lying.. the other girls will say she's lying.  They don't understand where she's coming from.  So, to head off this "you are lying" stuff, maybe it's in her best interest if the teachers intervene.  

 

Again, I have no idea what your daughter is saying, or doing to upset teachers like this....so, I can't really say if the teachers are right or wrong.  But, I am just going by my own experience with kids, and if she's sticking to this story, I'd be concerned too.  (i'd encourage lots of art and written stories about her real doll though)

post #3 of 84

It just boggles my mind that some people who work with children can be so anal about insisting that certain kinds of imagining are inappropriate at certain ages.

 

With the child that nextcommercial was talking about, the only problem that I can see is that he is licking other people. Kids definitely need to learn to respect others' personal space, so if my child were pretending to the point of encroaching on the space of others, I would certainly intervene and help him find ways to pretend while still being respectful of the rights of others. As far as the crawling on the floor or getting left out of games -- maybe he is not ready to relate to his peers as peers yet. Unless he's getting really upset about getting left out of games, I'd just let him deal with it in his own way -- minus the licking, of course.

 

But OP, it doesn't sound like your daughter's pretending is encroaching on anyone else's rights, so I think it's kind of bonkers for her teacher to even be interfering. I will say that when I was in 2nd grade, I didn't enjoy playing the playground games so I started taking a book outside to read under a tree, but after I'd done this once or twice, the teacher started intercepting me and taking it out of my hands as I went out the door.

 

So then I just headed over to one of the trees to the side of the playground, and spent my recesses wandering around in my own imaginary world. I think this was pretty adaptable of me. She took away my story, so I created my own stories in my head. But she told my parents it was causing the other kids to think I was really weird, as I was talking to myself and gesturing as I walked around, so the school made a rule that there were limitations as to how I could enjoy my freetime. I needed to either keep busy on the equipment, join a group game or sport, or play make believe with other children.

 

Occasionally, I was able to get one or two girls to join me in make believe, but for the most part, I stayed in my own head but learned to "keep moving" from one piece of equipment to the next. If I relaxed for a moment and stopped my mindless circuit from monkey bars to gymnastics bars to slide to swingset (they wouldn't just let me stay on a swing the whole time, or sit waiting by the swings for a turn) -- then the teacher would notice I had stopped and threaten to insert me into one of the competitive games unless I got moving again, pronto.

 

This experience of "free time" in the public school system is one reason why I ended up homeschooling my own two girls. My oldest, who is 12, has recently expressed the desire to go to school, so we plan to enroll her this coming fall. I feel like at this age, she's less impressionable than a 6 or 7 year old, and, of course, she will have complete freedom to evaluate the experience and decide whether she wants to stay in school or not.

 

From what I've heard, some teachers are learning about respecting diverse personalities in their inservice training, but it definitely seems like some are still stuck in the rut of trying to force everyone to fit in.

post #4 of 84

My daughter has a very active fantasy life. She's invented a whole family (two older siblings, two younger, the father comes from Korea, the mother from Mexico, and the children speak Korean, Spanish and English). She's 8 and has been developing this family since she was 4 or 5. But she doesn't trot this out at school. Why? Because she senses that other people might not understand. She never has talked about her fantasy family at school, even in the very crunchy Reggio Emilia preschool/kindergarten that she went to.

 

I'd talk to the teacher more. My suspicion is that your daughter is talking about these things and doesn't make it clear to others that it's creative/fantasy rather than  real. While I'm sure your daughter understands that they're not real, does the teacher know that your daughter understands this? Because if the teacher isn't clear on this, then yes, it could be an indication that she hasn't made the developmental step that most 6 year olds make. Six year olds, no matter what kind of school they're in, are very often sticklers for following the rules and telling the truth. It could be causing your daughter problems with the other kids because they see her fantasy as lying.

 

Personally, I'd talk to the teacher and listen to the concerns with an open mind. Go in prepared to explain to the teacher that your daughter is well aware of the difference between fantasy and reality and that you don't want to crush her creativity. But know too that your daughter might have some social learning to do.

 

FWIW my daughter chose to play by herself many days of the week, not because she was excluded but because she didn't really want to explain her fantasy world to the other kids. Or maybe it was that she couldn't explain it so that others could participate. As she's gotten older, she's been better able to include other kids in her imaginary play. When she was younger, she had these elaborate creations in her mind, and was upset that others didn't follow her exact vision, even when she hadn't really articulated her vision. SHE knew her vision and it was incredibly frustrating to her that others didn't share it. As she's matured, she's gotten better able to explain and better able to tolerate others' ideas being incorporated. (OK, she still had a fit last summer when someone wanted to add a computer to the Oregon Trail story, but she's making progress.)

 

I guess my longwinded point is: You don't want to crush your daughter's creativity, but do recognize that she might have some social learning to do.

post #5 of 84
You asked for articles and info. I Googled 'imaginary play for 6 year olds' on my Android. On the second page there were multiple sites that had information you may find helpful. It's difficult to copy and paste multiple URLs on the Android, so I don't have the links for you.

Good luck. I agree this is another example of interfering with a child's development.
post #6 of 84

Remembering my active imagination at school growing up.  Missed the recess bell twice because of complete immersion (completely missed the screeching kids running inside and complete silence that followed).  In 3rd grade people just avoided me when I was busy with my Mork-and-Mindy inspired play ("my name is Fried-Lice , I come from....." biglaugh.gifI kid you not).  I had friends, yes, but sometimes they played with me as sometimes, well, sometimes you can't blame them for not!

 

I don't know quite why I'm sharing.  I did have some trouble getting friends that weren't completely on board with some of my fantasy play (and *no one* joined me when I was FriedLice.  Go figure.  Mork and Mindy was at the height of popularity and I sounded just like Mork.... I just don't understand....)

 

I'm not making light of your troubles.  I'd be frustrated too.  Just thought I'd share, from someone who was a lot like your daughter.

post #7 of 84

well the deed is done. you wont be able to take back what you said.

 

next time make sure you listen to both sides before you decide how to react. but i can understand your anger. to bring up the school psychologist is really prepostorous. or perhaps she just wanted to check in to see how age appropriate this is so she shouldnt be telling you this. 

 

do you know if your school discourages this kind of imaginative behaviour?

 

i have had to redirect dd's behaviour since she was 2. she had to keep her imaginary friends at home (they were all animals). she needed that because she was scaring kids on the playground with her animal voices - esp. the lion's roar. 

 

i think most the children figure out not to bring out their imaginary children in the school playground because it gets v. confusing. they may not clarify this is their imaginary family. there was a lot of it in K. esp. with the child whose mother died and had half the class crying. till the teacher figured out it was her imaginary mom who died. for some of them they get so caught up in the story, they forget to clarify. 

 

however i have seen this even in 3rd and 4th grade. dd and her friends (Lots of issues on teh playground - girl puberty stuff - so lots of hurt feelings) split their personalities and took on two identities. dd and others discovered they liked each other sometimes and couldnt stand each other sometimes. 

post #8 of 84

So...some creative kids leave their imaginary worlds at home and just take them out at the "acceptable" times -- late afternoons, evenings, and weekends. I get that.

 

But I really empathize with those who feel a need to carry those worlds around with them everywhere, because I was one of those kids.

 

What's weird is that despite all the schools' aggressive attempts to "socialize" me and make me fit in, I never did fit in. And I'm sure that if they'd just let me be myself, I still wouldn't have fit in, but at least I could have been a lot happier than I was.

 

What gripes me is that socialization seems to be so much more about getting the most unique individuals to abandon some of their uniqueness and fit in with the group, than it is about helping children learn to accept others just as they are.

 

And I think kids are a lot more able to accept differences than we give them credit for. But I think they look to the adults around them for guidance on how to respond to differences, so it the adults are all acting like it's a major problem for children to have imaginary worlds, kids are going to absorb some of that attitude.

post #9 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by lyzamay View Post

I am deeply troubled about my daughter's first grade teachers/school. MY DD has an amazing imagination and she has turned her doll "real" and calls her her sister. We know she knows the difference, she will refer to her as a doll when she is relaxed and doesn't have to defend her creation.

 

I kind of wonder if this doesn't indicate that she uses her imaginary friend as a crutch for when she's feeling a bit anxious... Just a thought.

post #10 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by mammal_mama View Post


What gripes me is that socialization seems to be so much more about getting the most unique individuals to abandon some of their uniqueness and fit in with the group, than it is about helping children learn to accept others just as they are.

 

And I think kids are a lot more able to accept differences than we give them credit for. But I think they look to the adults around them for guidance on how to respond to differences, so it the adults are all acting like it's a major problem for children to have imaginary worlds, kids are going to absorb some of that attitude.

 

We don't know enough about the situation to make that assumption. The OP was not clear on what the teacher's concerns were other than she thought that 6 year olds should be past this stage. I'm not sure what led to the scathing letter that was written, but in general, it's often better to take the approach of "why do you see this as a problem and how can we work on this together?" that it is to assume that they're trying to crush the spark of uniqueness out of a child.

 

If this imaginary world is confusing other children or causing her daughter social problems, then I think the parents should at least listen to what the teacher has to say instead of jumping to "they're trying to squelch her creativity". It could be that the teacher has a legitimate developmental concern because the 6 year old has not made it clear that she understands the difference between fantasy and reality. It could also be interfering with classroom activities. For example, one common activity in the early grades is to create an "All About Me" poster with information on you,  family, favorite things ,what you want to do when you grow up, etc. If a child is putting down imaginary siblings on this, it's a problem. If, during sharing time, the child is sharing imaginary stories without making clear they're imaginary, it can be a problem. Sharing time is usually about learning to tell a coherent narrative about real events. That's a skill that many 6 year olds need to learn.

 

If, on the other hand, the children are doing creative writing or drawing and the teachers are crushing that, it's not good. If the child is happily playing these things on the playground and the adults are telling her not to, then it's crushing her individuality. But gently guiding a child to the appropriate time and place to share fiction is not going to kill someone's uniqueness. And it may just save them some of the social heartache that posters have described in this thread.

 

Honestly, my creative 8 year old doesn't fit in all that well with a lot of kids. It's partly personality, it's partly that her mind works in different ways. Her very traditional public school has not crushed that.

post #11 of 84

I think I need more details on exactly what was happening at school. How does your dd interact with the other students? Does she take the doll to school with her and pretend that it's real? I can see that could be an issue. Does her fantasy play extend beyond the doll - eg. does she make up stories about the rest of the family (dad is king of a foreign country, mom is a space alien, we lived in a research station in the Antarctic before I came to this school......) and are these stories interfering with her ability to construct healthy relationships with the other children?

 

I'll repeat the advice to speak to the teacher and clarify her concerns. Is the fantasy play interfering with her behaviour at school, participation in the classroom, or relationships with the other children? If so, in what way and how can it be mitigated at the same time as allowing and supporting your DD in her creativity? 

 

I'm reminded of the cartoon strip Calvin and Hobbes.  Calvin is a little boy and his stuffed toy tiger, Hobbes, comes alive when they are alone together and they get up to all sorts of mischief together. When a third party enters the picture, Hobbes reverts to his inert stuffed toy persona. You can find books of the collected comic strip. She's probably old enough to enjoy them AND perhaps you can discuss why Hobbes may not appear as a live tiger to anyone else. 

post #12 of 84
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone for your input.  I realized that my angry email was inappropriate and sent an email of apology later.shrug.gif  

 

My daughter actually has very strong social skills, and while I think that was the initial concern with the head teacher, I don't believe it is really affecting her with her peers. I think in the beginning of the year she talked about her "sister" more but quickly realized that it was something to keep quiet with only her close friends. I asked her what she says to the kids that don't believe her and she said she doesn't talk to them about it, so she's taking care of herself socially. She has her circle of friends and they quietly talk about it.

 

To complicate things more, she has an older 1/2 sister who she never sees, and we had a late miscarriage last year. So, this "sister" is a very healthy way of her dealing with her losses.

 

I shouldn't have jumped to conclusions, but my feeling is that this particular teacher feels the need to not engage in the fantasy. My anger comes from, "why?" The teacher doesn't have to feed the fantasy, but also shouldn't be saying, " I know you're pretending" and "it's not possible for things to turn real". Those statements hurt my DD and confuse her. Again, she does know, but she is fully living in this fantasy.

 

I believe it's hard to be in a class with so many kids that have siblings, and she wants one to love so much that she has created one.

 

It was my daughter that said she felt that the teacher was hurting her creativity, and that's what got me so angry— perhaps overly. We love our DD's rich imagination, and see no harm in playing along with it. It concerns me that the school seems to not agree. If it isn't hurting her socially and she's not talking about openly anymore, then I wish the teacher would just ignore it.

 

 

 

Quote:
 Originally posted by LynnS6.
 
For example, one common activity in the early grades is to create an "All About Me" poster with information on you,  family, favorite things ,what you want to do when you grow up, etc. If a child is putting down imaginary siblings on this, it's a problem. If, during sharing time, the child is sharing imaginary stories without making clear they're imaginary, it can be a problem. Sharing time is usually about learning to tell a coherent narrative about real events. That's a skill that many 6 year olds need to learn.

 

I have to ask, really, why is it a problem if she includes her "sister"? What is the problem with it?  She lives in a rich fantasy world and she has created this "sister" who does do everything with us. She isn't going to say, "my pretend sister" or "I brought along my favorite doll" and I don't think she has any developmental issues, she is is bright and socially active. She doesn't watch television, so her creative world is all her own. She might grow up to be a fantasy author, so why worry at six years old, if the parents say she knows the difference.

 

Anyway, we are going to meet with the head teacher to discuss all of this. I will try the Google the search mentioned above, although my initial searches didn't come up with anything.

post #13 of 84
Thread Starter 

She is fact based, and, no she doesn't make up anything about her parents. it's just that her doll is part of the family.

 

I'll look into the comic, she might like it, although she usually only likes stories where the main character is female.

post #14 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by lyzamay View Post

I am deeply troubled about my daughter's first grade teachers/school. MY DD has an amazing imagination and she has turned her doll "real" and calls her her sister. We know she knows the difference, she will refer to her as a doll when she is relaxed and doesn't have to defend her creation.

 

She started at a new school this year; it's an independent school if that makes a difference. Her teacher called us into a meeting after a couple weeks to ask us about the background. She wanted to discuss it with the school psychologist because she had never experienced this before and believed that by 6 years old, children grow out of this phase.

 

My daughter came home yesterday telling me that the assistant teacher says that she doesn't believe her, she knows she's just pretending, and that things can't really turn real.

 

I wrote a seething letter to the teacher. Why would 1st grade teachers want to limit my daughter's imagination? In fact, my DD even said when her teacher says this "it takes away from her imagination" I'm so glad that my DD has enough confidence to know better.

 

My question is, are there articles or books that are recommended to support how to raise my creative daughter even when her school wants to discourage it? Also, has anyone else had an experience similar to this?

So do you think that everyone should play along with her pretend world and agree with her?  Because I think that is taking it too far.  School is for learning and while there is time for play and creativity, I think school is the time for the "real world".   For a few years between 3-6 my ds had an imaginary dog that went everywhere with us.  We had some great times with that little dog, but once he started school she started showing up less and less. He just outgrew that stage in life.  

post #15 of 84
Thread Starter 

I don't think everyone should play along with her, but I don't think she needs a teacher telling her "reality". She is in first grade and as long as she is learning and keeping up academically and making friends then I think the teacher should ignore it when she's talking with a friend. It gets more complicated because she has a real half sister and she says that when she talks about her sister in public at school she is talking about her real half sister because she doesn't want anyone to upset her.  

 

I don't see an issue with her drawing a picture of her doll.

 

She says that if we had a real baby then she would give the baby her doll. That's enough for us to know that she knows the difference.

post #16 of 84

first mama i am sorry about the miscarriage. it must be so painful for you to see her wanting a sibling so bad. poor baby :( i know what a huge impact our cat's miscarriage had on dd, so i can imagine how heartbreaking it must be to not have the sibling she was looking forward to.

 

i think its absolutely fantastic that you are meeting with the teacher. gosh she is lucky enough to have a head teacher and others. dd had just a teacher. 

 

i think it will be VERY helpful for the teachers to see where she is coming from. that her sister is not really imaginary. 

 

any time, any time there are big things happening in our family the first thing i do is inform the teacher. they have been a wonderful source of support for dd and have helped her handle her grief. she has shared with the class in an appropriate manner so no one makes fun of dd crying or if she doesnt want to play. 

 

dd has had some wonderful teachers. whenever dd has had these interesting 'projects' she wanted to do in K and first (by second seh got what was appropriate and what was not) the teachers sat with her and very kindly listened and empathised and discussed with dd which parts would be appropriate and which parts wouldnt be. sometimes they squashed the whole idea - but they sat down with dd and had a discussion around it.

 

i was in close contact with the teacher (actually i volunteered a few hours in class each week - not just for dd but for me too) and with volunteering i had a pretty good idea of what was going on as dd was having a hard time. i had kids come and ask me why dd was weird. 

 

so hopefully all 3 of you can sit together (i found it was always very VERY helpful to involve dd - after i had spoken to the teacher alone and gotten to know her a little - in the conversation. instead of the teacher explaining to me what's going on, she'd address dd and speak to her and come up with a plan that works for both of them, with me there) and thrash this whole thing out. 

 

lastly i know there are great books about death and losing a sibling. i dont remember them. i know other mama's would be able to refer you to some books that might be a great help to process your dd's need for siblings. 

 

dd too had a great need for siblings. growing up she so badly wanted siblings. we always talked about future siblings. like its something to look forward to in future. it helped her to discuss what she would do to take care of them (she so badly wanted to change their dirty diaper eyesroll.gif). granted she never lost a sibling, but oh how badly she wanted one and still does. 

 

i am not sure if a first grader would get calvin and hobbes (by the way one of my top favourite comic strips). i keep wanting to say she'd enjoy charlie brown more - but i cant remember if anyone there pretends to teh level calvin does. 

post #17 of 84
Thread Starter 

Thanks meemee, 

 

We did meet with the head teacher before the beginning of the  school year and discussed the miscarriage and the older half sister and our DD's way of coping. After a couple of weeks so asked for a meeting to discuss it and we believe that the head teacher has been supportive to our DD in the classroom, but not the assistant teacher. We like to think this assistant teacher should ignore when our DD is quietly talking with a friend, but by saying she knows our DD is  pretending or doesn't believe her, it hurts our daughter.

 

i might have flown off the handle, but really felt like we discussed this already and yet it keeps coming up with the teachers. we'll have to see what happens after this meeting.

 

It's encouraging to hear that other mothers either have children or are themselves very imaginative and I would really liek to think that as long as it isn't hurting our DD academically or socially then what is the harm in placating her.

post #18 of 84
I have really mixed feelings here. On one hand, kids still have imaginary friends at that age. I know my older daughter did. Lots of them. People and animals. On the other hand, I know that some behavior surrounding imaginary friends can be a red flag at various ages and might prompt a teacher to look into things more to make sure everything is OK. That's part of their job, and we as parents aren't always in a position to see what behavior might be a sign of a problem. I guess I'm not sure exactly what to think but I think I'd probably want to meet with the teacher and the school psychologist, so I wouldn't have a problem with that suggestion at all. The teacher might not know exactly what the red flags are and whether your daughter is showing them, but the psychologist would and could calm down the teacher, or help your daughter get help working with a problem she might be dealing with if she needs it. I'd see that as a win either way.
post #19 of 84

When I was student teaching in a second grade classroom last year we had a student who would often have elaborate fantasies.  When his reading group was reading a Junie B Jones book where Junie B was waiting for a younger sibling, he told everyone he had a personal connection to the story because he was going to be a big brother.  He described decorating the nursery, going through his old baby clothes etc.  His mother was not pregnant.  His parents have no plans on another child.

 

He would tell us about his older brother.  He would tell us different things he was going to do with this older brother and things they had done.  He would write about him in his journal.  There is no older brother.

 

He checked out multiple books about gerbils.  He wrote about gerbils in his journal.  He told us the day he was going to pick out his gerbils.  He wrote in his journal about the things he was doing to help his gerbils adjust to their new home.  One day another parent was talking with his dad and said "my daughter has heard so much about the gerbils.  She'd like to come see them sometime."  Dad was like "GERBILS!  We don't have any gerbils!!!  His mother hates tiny animals!"

 

Now all of his stories made sense.  They had details.  They  made total sense from a wish-fulfillment angle (wanting a sibling, wanting a pet etc).  But the thing was we never knew when he was telling the truth and when he was fantasizing.  It made it hard to believe him, ever.  It did effect his relationship with other kids (they usually just assumed he was making stuff up, even if he wasn't).  

 

It also made it hard to believe to lessons about fiction and non-fiction and fact and opinion with him, because he would say things were true and we didn't really have a way to know whether or not they were actually true.  We also never knew when to address issues with his parents and when not to because they weren't real.

 

I'm not saying that your kid shouldn't have an imaginary sister.  I don't think there is anything developmentally wrong with that at all.  I am just saying when you have 25-30 kids in the room you don't always have all the time to get to know every detail of a kid's life to know when things are part of their fantasy play and when they are real.  I think you should absolutely keep talking to the teacher about it.  I just wanted to give you a "teacher" perspective on it.

post #20 of 84
Quote:

Originally Posted by lyzamay View Post
 

We like to think this assistant teacher should ignore when our DD is quietly talking with a friend, but by saying she knows our DD is  pretending or doesn't believe her, it hurts our daughter.

mama one lesson i learnt early on - is not to completely buy into dd's stories. you have a dd. wait till 3rd, 4th grade. teh kids get really something. esp. girls. i have learnt to listen and empathise with dd and also check in with the teacher. sometimes my dd gave one side of the story and yes her feelings were hurt, but she completely assumed something else. not saying this is your case, but its something to keep an eye on. i have cleared up many a situation that way AND taught my dd to see things through another perspective so that her take on that situation is not fully correct. many times my dd has been wrong, and its taken gentle questions and answers for her to see it. 

 

which is why i always keep an open mind. lately a mother wanted to get involved with her dd's and my dd's friendship which was going up and down. we have done this intervention before. i asked her this time to let the kids handle this on their own. they need time and space to work things out. and they did. and they are back to being best friends again. their 'split up' was very painful but they were able to mend their ways and figure out ways to work out things. THAT is a HUUUUGE lesson. without any adult intervention. but yeah they are 10 year olds. not 6. so my point is help and guide your dd to see through other perspectives so that by the time she is 10 -12 she can work things out herself. 

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