The study examined if there was a link between magical thinking and creativity in preschool children – and it found that there was.
Researchers Dr Eugene Subbotsky, Claire Hysted and Nicola Jones from the Department of Psychology at Lancaster University concluded that: “Magical thinking enables children to create fantastic imaginary worlds, and in this way enhances children’s capacity to view the world and act upon it from multiple perspectives.The results suggested that books and videos about magic might serve to expand children’s imagination and help them to think more creatively.”
Magical thinking involves believing in supernatural events...
The children were then tested for creativity which included being asked to pretend they were a rabbit or driving a car. They were also asked to think of different ways of putting plastic cups in a bin and for alternative uses for the cup.
The children who had watched the magical scenes performed significantly better on the creativity tests.
The researchers concluded that rather than just being used for entertainment, “magical thinking can be viewed as an additional source of development of imagination and divergent thinking in children.” [emphasis mine]
I'd always heard that magical thinking is dysfunctional in real life.
One thing I have admired about any really good science-fiction or fantasy is the coherence that is displayed in the story, through character and plot development. Jo Rowling's Harry Potter is very notable in these qualities, because there is STRUCTURE and DISCIPLINE in the story lines, and not just magic to solve every problem and come up with cheap resolutions to conflict issues.
Whether kids get that or not (and maybe they do subconsciously), the OTHER thing such writing does is express IMAGINATION, stretching the idea of what is possible, testing new ideas and new concepts and not disregarding an idea because "oh, that's just not possible." Being able to think like that may pull the artificial limits off of the thinking process. Kids can try something and if it doesn't work ... okay, that didn't work - let's try THIS!
And to borrow from another such author:
Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done.
--Robert A. Heinlein