EduKids Early Childhood Education Centers

Imaginary Friends

Posted on: April 9, 2012

Kate Dust, EduKids Education Director

It’s been my experience that families with little ones who have imaginary friends react in two very specific ways; with worry and dread that something is wrong or with total acceptance, setting another place at the table and moving over on the couch.  Imaginary friends have attended birthday parties and have been sent to bed early for misbehavior.

Recently a group of preschool parents asked me what I thought about imaginary friends.  Personally, I have found that children who have imaginary friends are self-assured, very verbal and find ways to solve problems and express concerns with removal of perceived threat.  I think both the child and their imaginary friend deserve attention and respect.

In her Childcare Exchange Journal article “Getting Along With Imaginary Friends,” Diane Krissansen  makes these observations:

Some children have many imaginary friends; other children have only one or none at all.   According to Tracy Gleason, Wellesley College, imaginary friends tend to be slightly more common for first-born and only children. Girls are more likely to create imaginary friends than boys — possibly because boys tend to do more impersonations of characters.

Imaginary friends are a positive tool in helping children learn about the world and serve many useful purposes.  They allow children to learn about roles and relationships, providing a practice pal for the child’s emerging social skills.  They enable children to explore issues of control, discipline, and power, without the anxiety of interacting with real authority figures. 

Imaginary friends provide an outlet for children to express and work through the normal anxieties of growing up.  They often make an appearance during times of stress or change, such as: moving; birth of a sibling; or death of a family member.

Imaginary friends tend to leave as they entered – all of a sudden, without fanfare or production.  They are a part of childhood that is specific to childhood.  And childhood is so very short.  So instead of being aggravated or worried about the pizza loving, blue striped tiger that lives in your house, set another plate and enjoy!

Each year children are involved with more people, have more responsibilities and learn more skills to deal with their world.  Imaginary friends aren’t needed.  But you always are.

“An imaginary friend is often what the child needs it to be.” Barbara Goldstein

-Kate Dust, EduKids Education Director

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