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Creative Minds: Kids With Imaginary Friends

Though kids with imaginary friends are often portrayed as strange in popular culture, it is more common than one might expect and often leads to enhanced creativity. When I was young, I had a friend inexplicably named Ordie. I painted pictures of Ordie (he was blue with green hair) and he was always available to play with me, which was fortunate, since I lived on a short dead-end street where all the kids were older boys that didn’t always want me around. As I grew older, Ordie faded into the background, but while he kept me company, my mom let me set a place for him at the table and he slept in my room (I was afraid of the dark and welcomed the comfort).

Parents.com’s Nicole Caccavo Kear cites a study by Marjorie Taylor, Ph.D, called Imaginary Companions and the Children Who Create Them that found that 65 percent of seven-year-olds have had imaginary friends. Most often, they appear during the preschool years (three and four years old) when kids are engaging in more elaborate pretend play.

Psychology Today says that invisible friends can be human, animal or fantasy creatures. Popular cartoonist Bill Watters created one of the most famous imaginary friends in his Calvin and Hobbes cartoon strip, where Calvin and his stuffed tiger, Hobbes, talk about everything and go on adventures together. When Calvin and his tiger are alone together, Hobbes is lifelike, but as soon as Calvin’s parents are present, he becomes simply a stuffed tiger.

Boys, like Calvin, are more likely to invent imaginary friends that are boys, while girls will invent friends that are boys (like I did) or girls. Taylor also found that imaginary friends could be extremely vivid and lifelike to children, even leading to contrary behavior where they complained that their friend wouldn’t come when called, talked too loudly or irritated them in some other way. Before you worry that you should banish your child’s new friend, the study also revealed that kids almost always knew that these friends were pretend (77 percent). Only one child in the study insisted that their friend was real.

Don’t panic if your child suddenly brings home a houseguest that seems to be settling in for the duration. Having an imaginary friend doesn’t mean that your child is unable to form friendships with other children. The Child Study Center’s Dr. Anita Gurian, Ph.D, says, “An imaginary friend is usually nothing more than the product of a curious and creative mind figuring out how to make sense of the widening world. In fact, children who have active imaginations tend to develop into curious and creative adults.”

When should you worry? Gurian says to keep an eye on the relationship. If your child, for a prolonged amount of time, consistently does avoid interacting with other kids in favor of spending time with their imaginary friend, she suggests consulting a professional. However, this seems to be rare. Instead, she says you should enjoy this time in your child’s life as they use an inventive tool to cope with new people and situations. Along with Calvin and Hobbes, you can embrace the world of imaginary friends with books like, The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, Jessica and Dotty while you get to know the newest, and most temporary, member of your family.

 

RELATED QUESTIONS

Is it okay for My daughter to have an imaginary friend? Advice

So this is from a friend of mine but she she was curious how many moms have children that have had imaginary friends and how normal is it? Her daughter insisted on a woman being in the bath tub who was blue for days and then said she left and hasn’t mentioned her since. Anyones LO’s had imaginary friends that kinda creeped you out?

Hi mamas! Imaginary friends : healthy or no? Not sure if it’s creepy or not for my almost 4 year old to be talking to someone not there lol!

Recently when I’m talking to my 2 month old, he looks like he’s looking over my shoulder and smiles a lot like if someone talks to him. He didn’t do that but besides that I’ve seen what looks like to me some shadow in the hallway.. I just feel like someone’s here, specially at night when he wakes . IT HAD NEVER HAPPEN. My mom says Angels, you know us Hispanics!

Need some suggestions.My daughter will be turning 4 years old in November and she is starting school in September but I have a tiny issue, she has started Lying to me and daddy. If she does something we will ask her nicely why she did it and she will blame it on her little brother or her imaginary friend… When she lies we will ask her to sit on the bottom step for 2 minutes (time out) but what can we do to stop the lying?! I didn’t think this stage started till like 8 years old….

Anyone dealing with toddler nightmares? My son is 20 months old an has been having nightmares for the passed week or so almost every night. He’ll wake up screaming crying but with his eyes closed. He also has an imaginary friend named “bobby” if I’m not mistaken . Which freaks me out.

Ok so this might be a weird/silly question and it makes me chuckle to even ask it. My daughter is almost 3 and suddenly is “making friends” with objects like a whisk, rock, and has an imaginary bug friend that lives in her car seat. She has full conversations with them and won’t leave the house or sleep without them. Weird or Normal?

Weird question what’s the youngest a toddler can have an imaginary friend my son is 18 months.

 

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