Why do curiosity, astonishment, and fantasy seem to be the natural territory of childhood? And, why do children spontaneously choose the unreal over the real?

There is no evidence that children use fantasy to “work out problems.” 20 years of research has shown that this is simply not true. In fact, cognitive research suggests that children love fantasy because they are so single-mindedly devoted to finding the truth and because their lives are protected in order to allow them to do so. Happy healthy children are more likely to be immersed in a world of fantastic daydreams than unhappy or troubled children.

Children are born with a full spectrum of human emotions, wild, exciting, passionate, vigorous, totally irrational and raging-to-go. But they are also inexperienced and longing to explore their feelings. They have a built-in desire to learn. This is why they need to be scared…. fantasy is an excellent “safe” way to explore this emotion.

Childhood is a special period of protected immaturity. It gives the young time to master the things they will need in order to survive as adults. What we call play allows the young to learn in a protected way. For the young, practical requirements are suspended. Children are free to consider a different reality. It is in this spirit of “possibility” that children read fantasy, which can lead them to learn that imagination is at the heart of what it means to be human.

The Candy Rat storyline is about a rat who stalks children to eat their Halloween candy and the children who try and keep the candy from the rat. A boy and his sister are aware of the existence of the rat, spending the entire story narrative hyper-alert to the rat’s presence. The goal for the Halloween evening is to protect their cache, looking for clever ways to keep it from being taken by the rat.

Our book, The Candy Rat, was created out of the imagination of the author’s mother. The concept of a “rat” was used as a medium to entice her children to rid themselves of their Halloween candy as soon as possible. Her motive being the elimination of candy for purposes of reducing the amount of sugar consumption and the children’s daily focus on eating the hoarded candy. Knowing that “fantasy” was inherent in her children’s imagination, she manipulated this trait with the creation of the “Rat” to meet her goal. Instead of nagging the children to stop eating the candy or forcefully removing it, she turned to the “Rat” as the Villain, eliminating the onerous responsibility from herself. Whether it is ethical or not, is an individual parental choice. But like Santa at Christmas, the idea of the “Rat” presented as harmless and emotionally stimulating to her children. It has become a tradition that has been handed down to the author and his kids.

The Candy Rat… a Halloween Tradition… as a fantasy… allows children to experience and explore their fears and frustration during a playful, emotionally charge Holiday.