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How Does Imagination Fuel Childhood Play?

Using their imaginations, children make-up games and engage in pretend play. Tom Sawyer excels at this, but Huck Finn doesn’t always find that pretend games are fun.

Childhood play consists of many different forms, but at the heart of the play is the sheer joy of doing it. With the joy of play comes the desire to repeat what is fun.

Repeating what is fun leads to mastery, and with mastery children develop a sense of accomplishment. A sense of accomplishment leads to confidence.

Tom Sawyer is imaginative, but he often bases his imaginative game-development on play which becomes boring for a realist like Huck Finn. There’s only so many times Huck is willing to hear about genies in a bottle. As Huck says:

I thought all this over for two or three days, and then I reckoned I would see if there was anything in it.  I got an old tin lamp and an iron ring, and went out in the woods and rubbed and rubbed till I sweat like an Injun, calculating to build a palace and sell it; but it warn’t no use, none of the genies come...

What makes Huck Finn think that everything Tom Sawyer says—about genies, diamonds and other pretend people and places—is actually real?

Tom says that pretend people, places and things come about “by enchantment.” What does he mean by that?

Might Huck “not get” what “enchantment” is all about because he has had a different life experience than Tom Sawyer has had?  Explain your answer.

Have you ever known a child who is such a realist that it’s hard for him/her to understand that a game is pretend-based, not reality-based? What happened?


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