An Imaginary Friend In Need Is An Imaginary Friend Indeed

I was dead certain that it was just my daughter and me in the house that one summer day in 2010 when I started to hear my daughter talking to someone in her bedroom.  I was pumped up and ready to put my feeble martial arts skills to use as the “intruder” alarm went off inside my head.  When I peered through her door, I found her talking to Gigi.

Gigi, apparently, was her imaginary friend.  I thought it was quite amusing that my daughter conjured up this character whom she immediately bonded with, but a tiny part of me- the paranoid part- was slightly bothered.  I started questioning the boundaries of normalcy.  Is it common for kids to have imaginary friends?  Was my daughter manifesting symptoms of an underlying psychological problem?  Is this what children of divorced parents inevitably go through?

Turns out, having pretend friends is common among preschoolers.  The imaginary friend is sometimes a lifelike doll which the kid plays with, or someone invisible.  A spokesperson from the Canadian Pediatric Society says that this is a routine part of childhood development.  It shouldn’t be a cause for concern.  Another study reports that by age 7, about 65% of kids have had an imaginary friend.

Reasons for having imaginary friends vary.  For some kids, it’s because they simply want to do imaginative play.  For others, it’s because they’re bored or lonely.  This is especially true for children with no brothers or sisters to play with.  Sometimes, having an imaginary friend acts as a self-soothing tool during a big life change, such as moving to a new home.  Somehow this becomes a way for the kid to practice his social skills in an environment which he has control over.

So the next time you see your kid talking to thin air, don’t hit the panic button just yet.  We just have to allow our kids to be who they are as they tap into their imagination.



About Pepper

I am a single working mom, trying to raise my kid the best way I know how. Join me as I navigate my way through the jungle that is Single Mom-hood, armed with rose-colored glasses and strength of spirit. As pepper adds spice to food, so does my daughter add spice to my life. She makes life no less than…PEPPERRIFIC!

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  1. I think this is more commong for children who still do not have siblings. I think it’s a healthy use of their imagination. Besides it doesn’t really cause any harm. Hopefully she’ll outgrow it soon enough.

    A cousin of my cousin (hope you got that. Hehehe!) used to have an imaginary friend. It went away when she got a younger brother. =)

  2. Carla Barilá Karam says

    Pepper… great post! My 5 y/o has not created an imaginary friend as of yet, although she has plenty of babies that she plays with. Love seeing her imagination at play. Thank you for such a good post. Blessings to you and yours.

  3. I’ve heard it’s a normal phase too. I never had an imaginary friend though. I wonder why I didn’t?!

  4. My son had an imaginary Brother–he only has a Sister so I think when he’d hear other talking about bro’s he just had to have one!! The crazy thing was -he had a whole back story about “Wilson” The whole family knew Wilson’s background–even my parents would ask about Wilson–and my son could rattle off for about 20 minutes about all they did together.

  5. My son doesn’t have an imaginary friend, but apparently he has a computer in his tummy. Sometimes I’d ask him what he’s doing when he’s really quiet and he’d tell me he’s watching movies on his computer. His computer also guessed the outcome of the State of Origin match last night and has predicted that we are having a girl ;)

  6. I’m pretty sure all four of mine has had imaginary friends. In fact one of my daughters has “twin” imaginary friends named Eliza and Beth (Elizabeth) – ha!

  7. Great post. While I don’t think I had an invisible friend, my dolls and stuffed animals were very real to me. I still remember uni’s and mrs. uni’s wedding (uni was a white unicorn, and mrs. uni was a white unicorn with a blue main and silver horn).

    Samantha has not shown signs of an imaginary friend yet, but she is only 1, so there is time still. I will find it completely normal if she gets one or more.

  8. My son’s imaginary friends were his stuffed animals. He’d line them all up to watch TV (the little he ever got to watch). He played with them in the sandbox, on the swing set and carried them in his wagon. He heads to college in the fall — I hope he’ll interact with real people then :)

  9. very true! Because my brother was almost 7 years older to me, I too used to talk to an imaginary friend when I was a kid!

  10. I LOVE listening to my kids play! It is so fun to hear what they say and how they interact with one another or how they make their toys interact with one another. My kids haven’t had imaginary friends, but I’m sure they will.

  11. my oldest daughter had an imaginary friend….she used to have tea parties with her and the most elaborate conversations…

  12. I had imaginary friends, my boys, mostly number 2, play with imaginary friends sometimes too, lol!

  13. Well, I’m 1 of 7 kids, and I had 2 imaginary friends as a child. I use one of them as my password name for many log ins to this day even. I don’t feel like I’m crazy, but maybe I am!;)

    • Oh it’s perfectly cool to be crazy once in a while :). I’m curious about your imaginary friends’ names ;)…

  14. I am always amazed at children’s imaginations! My youngest likes to talk about when she was a mom and I was a baby, and all the things we did together.

  15. I don’t think any of my kids have had imaginary friends. There are too many real people around here when they need someone.

  16. I love this!

    My daughter has three imaginary friends (Willow, Snickers and Ariel). They’re all dogs. At first having imaginary friends bothered me, but I see how my daughter has great imaginary play episodes and she practices “relating” while engaged in play with them (i.e. she’s usually a “follower” when playing with other children but when she’s engaged in imaginary play, she practices leading).

    I may have to write more about her imaginary friends on my blog (when I have a chance). They get into all sorts of adventures (aka – trouble).

  17. My five year old son Simon has Bookeylau…but did you uncover any information on middle schoolers? Kidding. I’m pretty sure my 11 year old daughter is trying to freak me out.

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