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Imaginary friends

imagination; imaginary; friends;

Who are they?

Have you ever watched a very young child playing with toys and talking with them?

Maybe he or she seems to be talking to someone else but you can’t see anybody there?

They are chatting to a make believe friend. Maybe it’s a character from a story book or film, maybe a cute animal or just another little kid.

It is quite normal for nearly 3’s to have such a friend [maybe you had one when you were little?]

  • Imaginary Friends 6Does your little brother or sister have an imaginary friend who has to go everywhere with him or her?
  • Or maybe the ‘friend’ lives in a special place eg. in a cubby or under a table?
  • Maybe the ‘friend’ has to join in whatever the rest of the family is doing?
  • Maybe the little one will say things like, “My friend doesn’t want me to eat that.”
  • ‘My friend doesn’t want you to sit there.”

Sometimes it is cute to watch a small child chat with his ‘friend’ even if the ‘friend’ can’t be seen. Other times the ‘friend’ can be very demanding and this can be hard on others in the family.

Why kids have imaginary friends

Imaginary Friends 5Having an imaginary friend means that the little kid can

  • always have someone to talk to
  • always have someone to listen
  • always have someone to play with
  • always have someone just for himself or herself.
  • always be in charge of what they are doing together.

Often the ‘friend’ will be able to do magic things,  superhero things and have fantastic adventures with the child—[without any injury happening to the child!]


Imaginary friends can be… annoying!

Imaginary Friends 2Sometimes little kids try to get out of trouble by saying that the ‘friend’ did something ‘bad ’eg.”He spilt the milk/ broke the cup/went in your room/lost the ball/told me to do it” etc.

Sometimes they may try to boss you around by saying things like ‘Don’t sit there that’s my friends chair. You can’t play my friend says so. You have to ask my friend.

Sometimes they may throw a tantrum, ”You stood on my friend, took my friend’s cake, etc.”

Yes it’s annoying!

You may even feel angry!

But, play along with the “little stuff”-by asking the ‘friend’ if it’s okay to sit there or asking the child if he or she would ask the ‘friend’ for you.

Imaginary Friends 3With the more important things like the ‘friend’ being blamed for things then try telling the child something like this.” Please tell your friend that it is wrong to play with other people’s things without permission / go into private things or places belonging to others and we don’t do that in our family.”

As for tantrums then try saying “Tell your ‘friend’ I’m sorry,” Distract the child by playing with him or her for a while. Tell mum, dad or whoever is caring for you if that doesn’t work!

Imaginary friends don’t usually last very long, kids grow out of them as they learn more, talk more and get out into the world more.

Didn’t you?

Imaginary Friends 1Kids say

  • “My imaginary friend ‘s name is Destiny .”
  • “When I was in Kindy I used to play with Ben and we had loads of imaginary people in our games .It was fun.”
  • “Playing online games with other people on the internet is kind of like having imaginary friends isn’t it?”
  • ‘My little brother used to have a ‘friend’ and it was very annoying because he would ask for things for his friend. He stopped when he went to pre-school.” 

Dr Kate

I’ll tell you a secret if you promise not to tell?

Dr Kate 

Ok. When I was little I desperately wanted a dog but my parents said I couldn’t. My imaginary friend was Karl. He was a big dog who came everywhere with me for a while until I went to preschool and got busy.

When I grew up I got a dog, a German Shepherd, he came everywhere with me, except work, and guess what I called him?

Yes, you’re right! I called him Karl and he was a real friend for the next 10 years of our lives together.


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