Imaginary Friends In Children

5 min read

Imaginary Friend of Kid
One fine day when your kid is playing happily in her room and you walk in casually to just check up on her just to find her speaking to someone who is not there! Should you be scared? Is it even normal? Well, fret not. Your child has an imaginary friend and it is ok. Not only is your little one absolutely normal but is also pretty creative. So, brace yourself to deal with the situation. The good news is, it is very common in children and memories of this invisible entity fades away as the child grows up.

Child Development and Imaginary Friends

Any pediatrician will tell you that having imaginary friends is a part of child development. It is a sign that your child is learning the art of role play, improving his or her verbal skills and developing creativity. The common mistakes parents do is that when they come to know about this imaginary friend they try to interact with ‘him’ to make their kid more comfortable and as a result, the child stops imagining the person. More often, parents try to interact and strike conversations with these imaginary creations, which actually ends up interfering the child’s development and the friend disappears in thin air. You should not do it rather; you should tackle it in a healthier way.

At What Age Do Children Have Imaginary Friends?

Imaginary friends in children surface during the ages of 3 and 4 years. A first born can make an imaginary friend a bit earlier as well. This imaginary friend can be another child, an animal, a toy, or anything that your child has recently seen and loved. The friend can also be a magical person or a fairy. Sometimes, these friends change as a child grows up, and eventually disappear as the real world life takes over.

Pretend Friends in Toddlers

As your toddler starts conversing and exploring more and more about the world, he indulges himself in ‘pretend play’. From making a doll’s hair to sleeping with the bunny, or talking and serving tea to an imaginary “Dolly” to playing with a imaginary “Noddy”– all this forms a part of a kids’ normal development. Children who are the eldest or the only child are more likely to have pretend friends in the age group of 3-5 years. This does not necessarily indicate that the child is lonely, and when the world dawns over him, this imaginary friend will disappear from his life.

Who Can Be Imaginary Friends?

From objects – like the doll or the bunny, to invisible humans, shapes and animals – anyone can take the place of your child’s imagination and creativity. It can also be a fairy, a magical person, or even a star. Boys tend to invent only male imaginary friends, whereas girls can either have male or female ones. The friends can be described in detail by the child.
Girl playing pretend play

Why Do Children Make Imaginary Friends?
  1. Sense of control: No matter how much you allow your child to do things like, eating on their own, helping you in kitchen, arranging their toys, they always sense the fact that most of the times it is you who are in control of the things and not them. So, by making up imaginary friends they gain a sense of control over things. They enjoy the authoritative power to tell someone else what to do and what not to do
  2. Satisfy their fantasies: They make up friends hailing from the Wonderland, Superman or Spiderman which they cannot find in real lives
  3. Boosting Confidence: They can do whatever they want to with the imaginary friend and no one scolds them. Thus building confidence
  4. A Solution to Boredom: It is mainly seen in single child. Until they go out to play, there is no one to play with them at home. So, better to create a make-believe mate and play with him!
  5. As a medium to voice their opinion: Children sometimes fear to voice their opinions and it is then they use their imaginary friends to say things like, “My Alice says she does not like to drink milk, mommy.”
  6. To Deal away with Shyness: For kids who are shy, having imaginary friends is a good thing because they will speak their hearts out with them without having to fear of being judged or bullied
  7. Filling in the Gap: If a child has lost a close relative or his friend from school has transferred to a different schools, it is most likely for them to create that person in their imagination. You can say it is a part of Coping Mechanism
  8. Use as Scapegoats: It is the most convenient way for kids to blame it on the other person for doing something wrong. This way they develop a sense of security. Let your kid get away with these excuses for some time but gradually start teaching them to take responsibility for the things they have done.
    There is nothing to worry about when your child goes through this phase. Look at the perks of having an imaginary friend

Girl talking to an imaginary friend

What Do Imaginary Friends Do?
  • Imaginary or pretend friends can give your child company when he needs, playing different games and stories
  • Pretend friends also pave a way for a kid to interact with the outside world
  • The kid has a private life which is neither controlled or shared with the adults of the house
  • String feelings are often dealt and testes on these imaginary friends
  • The child gets a sense of control as he takes charge of all that happens between the imaginary friend and himself
  • Imaginary friends are also excellent stress busters for kids
Dealing With Imaginary Friends in Kids
  • Do as your child says. If he asks for a seat at the table, do so. Welcome the friend into your family
  • Don’t get too involved. Let your child be incharge of his guest and you just follow the lead
  • Tackle the ‘blame situation’ tactfully. When he says that the mess is because ‘Dolly spilled the ice-cream‘, tell him that he needs to clear the mess no matter who created it. Do not try to get interactive with the imaginary friend
  • Incorporate a lot of playtime with real friends. Arrange play dates and pyjama parties to keep your child engaged

pretend friend in kid
Your child’s imaginary friend is not your enemy. Take this imaginative character in your stride and mould him in such a way so that it enhances your child’s cognitive and creative development. Be happy that your child has a rich imagination power and at the same time do your bit to keep him in touch with reality as much as possible. Yes, if you think it is going overboard or God forbid your child has been through a traumatic experience then you can go ahead and consult your doctor.

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