by Damian Mooncie
(Reprinted with kind permission from Steiner Education, Vol.30, No.1)
A late summer evening: two children at play in the garden aged four years and two years. The elder fully immersed in the pools of fantasy: driving her car (tricycle), stopping at traffic lights, buying bread at the bakers, having a chat, asking the way home, the journey home, unlocked the door to her house with stone 'keys'. The younger has pleasure in the door to the house opening and closing, of calling good-bye and waving - a flight of fantasy beginning but still steeped in the wonder of imitation.
At the dawning of a human being's life, many a gift is bestowed. Of these gifts one shines most splendidly amongst the rest; for in its unveiling it heralds the means by which the awakening child will manage to weave the tapestry of its unfolding life. The gift hidden beneath this glimmering shroud is that of the power of imitation. For in the grasp and weaving of its resource and possibility of imitation, the young child is allowed the means to accommodate the world about him within himself.
The ability to imitation provides the developing child the opportunity to assimilate all the manifest realities about him, to harmonise himself to the realities of his surroundings, to find security in that environment, and to harness its means for communication. The role of imitation in the developing child is to enable the panorama and sense-perceptory environment about him, to be taken in upon him, that is: it's the means by which we orchestrate ourselves inwardly to that which occurs in our outer environment. So the realm of imitation is the architecting of our inner self; an assimilation of outward gestures and realities which 'play upon' the child and which the child 'takes hold of and lays down as foundation stones within him. Examples and gestures in the environment of the young child are of utmost importance, for they are the primary steps in the disciplined lesson of self tuition, and form the bed-rock of an ascendance to knowledge. In the gift of imitation we recognise the seeds for deep understanding, and that depending on the virility of the young developing child's immediate surroundings the abilities and potential future deeds of that child may be hindered or promoted.
For imitation is the means by which we take the living world around us in upon ourselves and in so doing with these impressions we architect within us a kingdom: the kingdom of man. If these impressions are rich and vibrant, and worthy of imitation, then the kingdom architected within will be full of all these glories.
After the unveiling of the gift of the 'power of imitation' another gift is received by the developing child, a gift which when coupled with the former will radiate about the child as a golden light. This gift is the 'strength of fantasy'. Where imitation can be likened to the harp of the bard, fantasy is the sonnet which spills upon the strings. For fantasy is the outer deployment of that held within. In imitation the child 'takes in' the surrounding world, by fantasy the child 'takes on', wears as a garment the world that is within. In a child's fantasy we listen to the depths and majesty of the kingdoms within him, and bear witness to his individual nature.
In the discourse between these two processes of imitation and fantasy in the young child we observe the advent and the rising of their individuality. For the individual nature of the child is exhibited in their marriage.
Imitation, that of taking in upon oneself, leads the individuality to security and self- knowledge; while fantasy, that of 'taking on' upon oneself, leads the individuality into a social realm of group interactions and relation- ships, that of an outer experience which holds the seeds of wisdom.
When these two processes are recognised and given importance two things become apparent. That the current realm of childhood and its educational applications are heavily balanced in the favour of the process of imitation. That we ask children to 'take in' all the things presented, and have little regard to the second process, that of fantasy, where in childhood we take on or act out that which had previously been given. The result of not sponsoring the flight of fantasy in the child is that as an adult he will lack the abilities to act out and upon his environment, both in regard to himself and others, but will demonstrate a strong inner aspect; but its social reality will be one of solitude.
Fantasy heralds the manner by which we may rejuvenate our consciousness towards others and that as a gesture and wish it speaks of freedom.
Damian Mooncie teaches at the Plumtree Steiner Nursery in Brighton, which has been established for six years. The Plumtree Nursery caters for children of 0-4 year and their families.