“What Do I Do? My Child Can’t Handle Fairy Tales!”

If this is your child, take a deep breath.  This issue comes up more frequently than one might suspect. 

First of all, check yourself.  I had a friend once who said how much she enjoyed fairy tales and felt comfortable with them, but then admitted there were parts that “were not so nice”.   Okay, so not as comfortable as she thought she was!  The thing is, one HAS to look at the fairy tales as archetypal images, not from an adult perspective of literal happenings. 

Secondly, check the age of your child and what adult factoids the child has been exposed to in their educational career.  If your child has been exposed to lots of “but these are the facts, m’am” regarding science and other subjects and things usually have a “literal” answer for the child, then it will be more difficult for the child to absorb these tales in an archetypal way.  Some children are truly not comfortable with Grimm’s tales until age six and a half or seven, but there are many other kinds of tales to pick before then.  If you need suggestions, please leave a comment in the comment box and I would be happy to suggest something for the age of your child!

Third, pick tales that you are comfortable with.  Read the tale for three nights before you tell the fairy tale so you  absorb it yourself and you can TELL it to your child.  Consider songs and puppetry and props for your tale as opposed to just straight “telling”.  I think especially for children who have been “over-factoided”, they need that soothing visual imagery of silk marionettes to help them along.    There are many wonderful Waldorf resources that have turned fairy tales into Circle Times and puppet shows.  “Plays for Puppets”, available through Waldorf booksellers, is a lovely place to start.

I wrote a full post regarding the necessity of fairy tales with more suggestions for choosing fairy tales by age here:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/20/the-importance-of-fairy-tales/

These tales are medicine for your child’s soul; for helping your child deal with their own fears, for showing a child the optimistic view that the world is truly a good place.  Meditate on this, find the truth in this.



9 thoughts on ““What Do I Do? My Child Can’t Handle Fairy Tales!”

  1. Thanks for this. I was thinking about this after reading a thread about it on the Waldorf homeschoolers yahoo group, and I was having a very hard time swallowing the reasons fairy tales were good from those messages. I just didn’t buy it. But after reading your 2 posts it makes more sense to me now.

  2. I could definitely use some suggestions for choosing fairy tales/stories for my almost 4-year-old son. He enjoys Grimm’s Sweet Porridge, but I’m not sure that he’s ready for any of the “heavier” fairy tales. Any ideas?? Also, thanks so much for your beautiful blog. I am a faithful reader and look so forward to your wise and insightful thoughts.

    • I would try some of Suzanne Down’s nature tales – there are two books “Autumn Tales” and “Spring Tales”, both available through Rudolf Steiner College Bookstore…As far as more traditional tales, there is a list according to age in the blog post I linked to in this post – scroll down towards the bottom of that other post. I also like “PLays for Puppets”, a sweet little book with many puppet plays in it. Puppetry is such a wonderful thing for this age.
      Hope that helps,

    • Not even three is so little, little, little. I would think the really repetitive tales, The Gingerbread Man, Chicken Licken, those kinds of simple tales…Tell it for about two weeks to a month at a time. For picture books, I would keep it to a minimum of 4-6 books a season, check out suggestions under Family Reading- Picture books at Bob and Nancy’s. Elsa Beskow is lovely, but more for the five-six year old who can follow a story line…You can try this post, altho some may be too old at this point: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/20/more-books-for-children-under-7/ and there is an original post to this one that I can’t locate, prob in the Children Under 7 tag section….

  3. I was hoping you could offer some suggestions for me. My 31/2 yr. old daughter has been exposed (over-exposed) to the disney princess movies. (first through friends, then reinforced by grandparents) She LOVES these movies and the lines, characters and drama show up in most of her play. I tried balancing this by telling her the original stories/fairy tales that disney has spun off of. She’s always asking me to tell her one of these stories, but “the disney version” she requests. I’m just wondering how to go back in time and help her to enjoy simple tales that are more age appropriate now that she has been immersed in these.

    • Hi Ramona, Thank you so much for writing to me! I feel your heartache and see your challenge because this situation is a little like trying to close the barn door after the cows have escaped, but I do think there is hope. Your daughter, after all, is very little! I would actually approach this very, very sideways and approach this through other ways. The first thing I would be sure is to have a really strong foundation of outside time and practical work in the house. If she would like a story, then I would tell her very simple nature stories and stories from your own childhood that you make up. Three and a half is actually young for fairy tales such as Grimm’s. You can see the suggested tales for each age in the fairy tale posts, just run a search on this blog and it will come up. When she is coming up on four, I would get a copy of Suzanne Down’s Autumn Tales and Spring Tales and tell one of those for two weeks to a month and make a BIG deal out of it with lighting a candle and singing a song and really bring reverence to it. She will slowly hear other tales whilst her body is engaged in nature and work, slowly see and develop reverence for storytelling, and if you can leave some baskets of open ended toys, you may see these stories come out into her play..
      Start sideways, and move from there, but most of all have hope!

  4. Pingback: What Stories Should I Use In The Six-Year Old Kindergarten Year? | The Parenting Passageway

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