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Kids & Fairy Tales: Why They Matter

Albert Einstein famously said it first: “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

But why? Why do fairy tales so perfectly hit that sweet spot between vigor and valor, goodness and grit? What is it about the classic fairy tales that have stood the test of time, sparking imagination and insight for thousands of families and hundreds of years?

Hear what child psychologist Sally Goddard Blythe says about the importance of fairy tales in a kids’ life – and which ones to start with for your own family!


Why do fairy tales matter?

“Fairy tales are important not because they show children how life is, but because they give form to deep fears and dreams about life through fantasy,” writes child psychologist Sally Goddard Blythe, director of The Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology and author of The Genius of Natural Childhood: Secrets of Thriving Children.

Often times, parents run the risk of viewing a fairy tale through the lens of their own developmental stage of adulthood, and as a result, find them to be too morbid, exaggerated, or unrealistic. But in fact, argues Goddard Blythe, that’s precisely the point.

“The important thing to remember is that children take on these stories at the developmental level they are capable of. In fairy tales, it’s always clear that this isn’t the real world. The characters might be unfamiliar to the child but the problems and the feelings that are dealt with are themselves often very true to life. Fairy tales give children a way, through stories that are safely set apart from themselves, to understand some of the really confusing and difficult feelings that they can’t yet articulate for themselves.”

Because fairy tale characters are unrealistic by nature – talking frogs, faraway giants, and pixie princesses, to name a few – a child can easily extract a moral or lesson from a mindset of security. A child might think, “This terrible thing would never happen, because frogs don’t talk. But if it did…” Thus, the lesson, moral, or experience can take root in a safer manner than if the main character were identifiable or relatable to the child. (For more research on this phenomenon, check out this eye-opening Italian study!)

Aside from helping a child to process complex emotions and scenarios, fairy tales offer a surprisingly robust education on the basics of storytelling – from character development to plot/story arc and everything between. In fact, many of today’s most accomplished authors have noted that they learned the fine art of writing from the hardbound copies of Grimms, Hans Christian Andersen, and Charles Perrault.

“As a writer, I began to notice that fairytales were perhaps the greatest influence on a lot of contemporary writing but hardly ever mentioned in reviews or criticism of those works, except perhaps as an aside. I felt that it was high time to restore fairytales to their literary place as probably the broadest influence on writing over the ages,” says lauded author Kate Bernheimer in a recent NPR interview.


A Fairy Tale Reading List for Kids Ages 2-7

Ready to guide your child on a daring adventure toward open seas, wild forests, and mountain views? Here’s our starter fairy tale reading list for the youngest of readers and gentlest of souls! (Click each book cover to view details and/or purchase!)




p.s. Want to bring your child’s favorite fairy tales to life? Enjoy this month’s bonus pack of our favorite classic literature lesson prompts for 2-7-year olds – FREE for members / $5 for non-members!

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