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Imaginary friends in childhood

Imaginary friends in childhood

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Around the years of kindergarten and the preschool stage, children's imagination is difficult to separate from real life. In these periods, in addition, children begin to interact more fully with the world around them and sometimes new experiences and changes can make the store imagination create a new unreal friend with which to face these challenges: imaginary friends.


  • 1 What are imaginary friends?
  • 2 Why do some children create imaginary friends?
  • 3 Imaginary friends and creativity
  • 4 Can there be any complications in these cases?
  • 5 What should adults do when the child has an imaginary friend?

What are imaginary friends?

An imaginary friend is an unreal and idealized companion, created by the imagination of children who can possess any characteristic with which they can fantasize. Huge ears, impossible colors, mouse nose ... any property is valid in the imagination of a child when creating an imaginary partner.

For adults, talking, laughing and interacting with someone who does not exist is considered something negative, an alert sign that automatically leads to mental illness and / or hallucinations. However, children do this in a way very common. In fact, according to some statistics, between one third and half of the child population lives this experience, something completely normal and part of a healthy development.

Why do some children create imaginary friends?

The most common idea by which it is often explained that children create imaginary friends is that this is due to a state of loneliness. That is, according to this hypothesis, children create playmates when they are bored or have no other friends nearby. However, this idea is much discussed, since there are many other reasons that can be applied according to different circumstances and that in fact, are usually very beneficial for the child's development.

Interaction with imaginary friends has a strong relationship with the social skills development. When the child converses with a character that does not exist in real life, he usually seems to speak alone. The child in this case is practicing a internal dialogue He addresses himself. A dialogue that helps you deal with problems and build trust with himself.

This is most clearly seen when children play with inanimate objects such as dolls or stuffed animals that give human characteristics. In this way they interact with them creating and experimenting with social roles of those who learn and help them interact in real life.

In some cases, children can create imaginary friends to face periods of stress or emotional intensity. When the child is in a situation that causes anxiety, such as a move, a new school or a separation, he can create an imaginary friend like coping strategy. With this, the child can share his emotions and cope with the pressure by focusing on a friend with whom to share that emotional overload.

Imaginary friends and creativity

Some researchers have suspected that the appearance of imaginary friends may be closely related to the creativity of the little ones. In a study carried out by Schaefer in 1969, it was suggested that early forms of role-building related to high creativity during adolescence.

Later, another study carried out by Eva V. Hoff in 2005, stated that there was a correlation between having had imaginary friends in childhood and having great creativity later. In 2009, we also studied the existence of a great relationship between having this kind of childhood imagination and having high creativity among fiction writers and adult actors.

However, Marjorie Taylor of the University of Oregon, found that these studies were not based on specific creative tasks with which to measure results, so she carried out an investigation in which concrete tests were proposed to measure children's creativity, finding again that those who had or had imaginary friends scored higher on these creativity tests. "It makes sense because having an imaginary friend is a very creative act," explains Taylor. “It implies a lot of imagination.

Can there be any complications in these cases?

Having an imaginary friend during childhood is something quite common and that adults should not worry too much. Talking with him about his friend without prejudice can make us share a bond of trust and closeness. As we have explained above, the use of imaginary friends can generate good results in terms of social skills and respond to causes that can sometimes be beneficial for the child's development.

However, there are cases in which the imaginary friend is a resource that the child uses excessively and with which he can even create strategies not to focus on real life. For example, if the child claims that he has not picked up his room because his imaginary friend does not either, or blames it for something inappropriate that he has done, it may be necessary to make him understand that it is important face your actions itself. According to psychologist Kimberly Eckert, “children can separate what real life is from fantasy. They know it's a game. "

What should adults do when the child has an imaginary friend?

Trying to confront the idea of ​​the imaginary friend or force the child to abandon it is not appropriate, since it manages to precisely tell it, in addition to creating a gap between parents and children who do not feel understood. Talk to the child About the imaginary friend makes us create a bond with him, as well as understand what his interests and fears are usually reflected in the fantasy.

Experimentation of this type of illusion usually disappears naturally when the child reaches the school stage. It is essential that in addition to giving them freedom to develop their own ideas, children also spend time enjoying with real people, with friends, family and of course, their parents. Thus, little by little, the little ones will find real life increasingly exciting and stimulating, gradually saying goodbye to their imaginary friends to explore and enter the real world.

Links of interest

Imaginary Friends in Child Psychology. David White //

Your Childhood Imaginary Friend May Have Been an Early Sign of Creativity. Casey Lesser (2018). //

Wacky Toddler Behavior: Imaginary Friends. Tamekia Reece. //

Why kids invent imaginary friends. Lisa Kadane (2016). //