How long should kids believe in the Easter bunny?

Believing in the Easter bunny can boost your child's creativity. See more holiday pictures.
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Although the story is really similar to that of Santa Claus -- another friendly figure bringing kids goodies the night before a holiday -- most children probably don't ever truly believe in the Easter bunny in the same way they believe in St. Nick. Santa, after all, is a regular person, despite his sleigh and flying reindeer. So, if your child saw Santa at the front door, he'd probably just be excited. But if he saw a giant bunny outside hiding colored eggs, he'd likely be shocked -- even if he'd been chattering excitedly about the Easter bunny all spring.

Regardless, many kids do put a lot stock in the Easter bunny myth, and look forward to the arrival of their cotton-tailed friend all year. As a parent, you might worry that encouraging this belief is harmful, but that's not really true. It actually takes a lot of imagination for a child to believe in something like the Easter bunny, and to construct the fantasy world surrounding him: dying eggs every year, hiding them before Easter, carefully preparing and delivering goody-laden baskets and so on. Engaging in this type of behavior can help boost your child's creativity and develop his sense of wonder. And experts say there is simply no scientific evidence that belief in the Easter bunny has any long-term harmful effects.

Engaging in the Easter bunny fantasy is totally appropriate during your child's early years. And besides that, it's just plain fun. There's really no age limit on believing, but if you do think it's time for your little one to know the truth -- or are wondering if he already knows -- we have some tips. Read on to find out more.

Wanting to Believe

As we mentioned earlier, there's really no set age when your child should stop believing in the Easter bunny. Between his own intellectual development and the presence of siblings, relatives and friends who might accidentally (or not-so-accidentally) spill the beans, he'll likely figure it out on his own by the time he's about 8 or 10 years old.

Keep in mind, too, that your child might know the Easter bunny is a myth and keep mum about it. Sometimes, that's because he's afraid that if he says there's no Easter bunny, the chocolate eggs and marshmallow peeps will disappear. Or he sees how much fun you're having pretending that a giant rabbit hid the Easter eggs, and he doesn't want to disappoint you by admitting he knows the truth. Of course, he might simply enjoy the entire tradition and hoopla surrounding it and want to keep it going.

Spilling the Beans

Honesty is the best policy when fielding Easter bunny questions from kids.
Honesty is the best policy when fielding Easter bunny questions from kids.
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If your child does come up and ask you whether the Easter bunny is real, no matter how old he is, it's best to be honest. He's maturing and piecing together the information around him, and you should encourage this critical thinking -- as well as the fact that he isn't afraid to ask questions. He'll probably also be pleased he figured it out himself. Plus, denying it would require you to construct a more complex Easter bunny story.

Another tactic is to toss the question back at your child by asking him, "Well, what do you think?" If your child persists in getting an answer from you, however, honesty is still best -- just make sure your answer treasures the way he feels about the subject. For example, you might say, "The Easter Bunny is a wonderful, imaginary rabbit who brings happiness and joy to children and their families at Eastertime."

Sometimes, it is, in fact, best to broach the subject yourself. If your child is nearing age 10 and has a lot of friends or classmates who are beginning to tease him about his beliefs, it's probably best to pull him aside and gently tell the truth.

No matter how things unfold, rest assured that most kids have just as much fun at Easter even when they know the Easter bunny is simply a beloved tradition.

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Sources

  • Dewar, Gwen, Ph.D. "Is the Easter Bunny a fraud? Does Santa make kids gullible? Why we don't have to worry about the day kids learn the truth." ParentingScience.com. Copyright 2010. (2-24-11)http://www.parentingscience.com/Easter-Bunny-and-Santa-Claus.html
  • Richert, Rebekah. Assistant professor of psychology, University of California-Riverside. Personal interview; conducted 03-01-11.
  • Smith, Dr. Charles. Professor of family studies and human services, Kansas State University. Personal interview; conducted 03-01-11.