8 Reasons Why Fairy Tales Are Essential to Childhood

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Not everyone believes in the importance of fairy tales for kids. In fact, 25% of parents recently surveyed said they wouldn’t read fairy tales to a child under five years old because they didn’t teach a good lesson or were too scary. Many of you shared your opinion about this on Facebook and please comment here, too – I want to hear your thoughts!

The fairy tale survey, quoted in this UK’s Telegraph article shared the top ten fairy tales parents don’t read and why. Reading through the list of reasons, I can only conclude that these parents have lost their reasoning skills –completely. For example the reason not to read Goldilocks is that sends a message to steal. Hardly. If anything, the message is don’t break into houses because a family of bears might live there.

I want to look at why fairy tales are important for kids; why they’re essential stories for childhood.

reasons why fairy tales are essential for kids

8 Reasons Why Fairy Tales Are Essential to Childhood

“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.” 
― Albert Einstein

1. Fairy Tales Show Kids How to Handle Problems

We learn from the characters in stories, even as adults. They help us because we connect to our own lives, dreams, anxieties, and consider what we would do in their shoes. Fairy tales help children learn how to navigate life. (Bettelheim, B. Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales.)

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”
― G.K. Chesterton

2. Fairy Tales Build Emotional Resiliency 

Fairy tales show real life issues in a fantastical scenario where most often the hero triumphs. (Except in Grimm originals.) Children need to discover in a safe environment that bad things happen to everyone. Because guess what? No one in life is immune from challenges — so we need to build capacity in our children. Do we build emotional muscles so our children can hang on during tough times or do we shelter our kids, protecting them, leaving them so weak they can’t handle anything requiring strength?

3. Fairy Tales Give Us a Common Language (Cultural Literacy & Canon)

Neil Gaiman writes, “We encounter fairytales as kids, in retellings or panto. We breathe them. We know how they go.”

4. Fairy Tales Cross Cultural Boundaries

Many cultures share common fairy tales like Cinderella, with their own cultural flavor. We read the versions and know we all share something important, the need to make sense of life with story, and the hope for good to triumph over evil.

5. Fairy Tales Teach Story

Fairy tales are understanding the basics of a story — setting, characters, and plot (rising action, climax, and resolution) as well as the difference between fiction and non-fiction. Once a child understands story structure, it supports his ability to make predictions and comprehend other stories he’s reading.

6. Fairy Tales Develop a Child’s Imagination 
“When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking.”
― Albert Einstein

7. Fairy Tales Give Parents Opportunities to Teach Critical Thinking Skills

I absolutely hate Disney’s The Little Mermaid. A girl abandoning her life for a boy is rubbish and no kind of role model for my daughters. Even the original version shows a weak woman who dies for the man — I don’t like it. (But at least she suffers the consequences!)


It doesn’t mean I won’t let my kids read the mermaid story. Sheltering doesn’t give my kids critical thinking skills. Exposure and guided conversation do! (Maybe with a few groans from the peanut gallery.)

8. Fairy Tales Teach Lessons

Use fairy tales to teach morals and lessons. What can you learn from Goldilocks? How about Cinderella or Jack and the Beanstalk?

So, are fairy tales too scary for kids?


You need to consider a child’s age and developmental stage. We don’t read a two-year-old the original Rapunzel where the prince is blinded and bloodied because the child won’t understand it anyway. Use your judgment as a parent. Let your children use their judgment, too — they’ll be able to say if they think the story is too scary or not.

You need to consider time of day to read the fairy tales. Perhaps some fairy tales aren’t meant to be bedtime stories. So, read them at lunch!

Just don’t ban fairy tales from your child’s life forever just because some are scary or politically incorrect. You can easily find modified versions if that works better for your child and your family.

What are your thoughts about fairy tales?

What are your favorites?

“Though now we think of fairy tales as stories intended for very young children, this is a relatively modern idea. In the oral tradition, magical stories were enjoyed by listeners young and old alike, while literary fairy tales (including most of the tales that are best known today) were published primarily for adult readers until the 19th century.(complete:http://www.endicott-studio.com/gal/galWi…)”
― Terri Windling


Huge List of Fairy Tale Books for Children
Once Upon a Time: Fairy Tales for Kids

Fantasy Books
middle grade fantasy novels


8 reasons why fairy tales are essential to childhood

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  1. I am so glad I read this blog article. I am an author and illustrator who paints in watercolor. I paint mostly fairy and fantasy figures and themes. I’m working on a book of poems and accompanying pictures for the children’s book market. I agree, you can’t shelter kids, they have to learn the realities of life, even as moral messages within a fairytale. Letting children grow in their imagination is creative play and critical thinking that will benefit them now and in their future. Fairies are beautiful, their environment is nature and they can teach kids to appreciate the natural environment and the stories, though imaginary, in turn help them be more imaginative themselves.

  2. Nice post, Melissa. I’m not a teacher or a parent, but I love books and story telling. I don’t remember ever being scared by fairy tales, and they haven’t affected my world view of romance (at least I don’t think so). I think parents may be critical of fairy tales because they are looking at them with their own jaundiced adult life experience. That said, I do think pre-schoolers may be too young for fairy tales. Older kids seem to understand that fairy tales are stories; they’re not real.

    My personal favorite is Beauty and the Beast. I related to Belle, who was well-read and grounded, and had no interest in guys like Gaston who were full of themselves. The story teaches us to look past external appearances to see the true humanity of a person within. She was able to love the Beast because of who he was, even when he did not love himself. It’s about treating people with kindness, no matter who they are. A valuable lesson indeed, especially in today’s society.

  3. For me, it depends on the fairy tale and I would be sure that my child is old enough to understand reality from fantasy, because I grew up blurring the two and have had a miserable existence because of it!

  4. Even as adults, we may learn from the characters in stories. They assist us because they allow us to connect with our own lives, dreams, and fears, as well as think what we would do if we were in their shoes. Children can learn how to navigate life by reading fairy tales. Thank you so much for the knowledge!