“Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl
A funny thing happened last week that’s got me thinking a lot about magic in childhood. Of course, children see magic everywhere. Putting on a big dress is magic, making eye contact with a squirrel is definitely magic, even carrying a stick is magic. Children have the ability to be more fluid with their imaginative and mundane worlds, and so they walk the earth with glittering eyes as their truth. We do not need to take them to Disney World (“the most magical place on Earth”, right?) to feel magic, they’ll probably be just as impressed with the pool at the hotel. Children see magic everywhere because they are truly looking for it, and truly wanting it to be magic.
The quick definition of magic is: “the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces”. With this description in mind, it’s easy to understand that much of what the children see and experience IS magic to them. They see a mysterious power in the wind, a mysterious force making fleeting rainbows, and can feel the supernatural power behind the stick they are wielding.
So here’s the funny story: We have some string lights that are remote-controlled hanging in the classroom. One child was looking at them and asked the lights to turn on. Standing behind them, I hit the button on the remote. “Oh! It’s magic!” said STr, “Abra-cadabra!” And I hit the button to turn them off. “Abracadabra!”, he continued saying over and over while his eyes fixed on the lights seemingly obeying his wishes, and I stood behind holding up the remote clicking them on and off. Well it took about 10 seconds for the other children to get word that magic was being made and they all crowded around the lowest hanging light and waited in turns to try to control them. Our cubby area was filled with laughter, twinkling eyes, and “Abra-abra!”, “Abracadabra!” for many minutes. I, all the while, standing behind them with the remote held up in the air to point to the battery pack. I wondered when a child was going to notice me and it would all be ruined. “Kaaaatee”, they would say as they discovered the truth and rolled their eyes at me. But that’s not what happened at all. One child broke off from the group to use the bathroom and upon her return noticed me clicking the remote as the children said their magic verse. “Katee, you don’t even need that! You don’t even need the remote right now! We’re doing the lights with magic! Look!”-CL
The children want so badly to see the magic in the world and be a part of it, that they are willing to look past other evidence that takes that magic away. A prime example is with puppetry. The children of this age generally love to listen to puppets. So much so that when we have important scenarios to talk about with the children, we often use puppets, or dolls to do the talking. But here’s the thing- you don’t need to be a ventriloquist. You don’t even need to try to hide that your mouth is actually moving and saying the words. They don’t care. They will hand you that floppy, lifeless puppet for you to put on your hand and animate and they will watch with delight as it moves it’s head, hanging on it’s every word, and are so very captivated by its magic. They know you have your hand in there, they can see your mouth speaking the words, but it doesn’t matter. They want it to be magic, and so it is.
Another magical happening occurred last week when one child saw that our window prisms were letting colors shine through. Not just rainbows on the wall though. When he moved his head this way and that, he could see each individual color sparkle from the prism. “It’s magic! It’s really, really magic I think!”- AD.
Adults can be very dismissive of this magic. We understand light refraction in different terms, we adults hold a stick and see a stick in our hand. We adults tell the children “It’s just your imagination”, as if our imaginations are not valid. But everything that we understand was once imagined! Gravity was once imagined, parallel universes are in our imagination, this school was once just Sarah Lu’s imagination. Playing with these things is what drives our curiosity and understanding. We could tell them how the prism works, and if they really wanted that information they might ask, but instead we let them play. By letting them play, we are holding space for their imagination. By giving them the freedom to imagine, we are defending their magical truth.