Yesterday my 3 1/2 year old daughter met a new friend Bob. She and Bob played with her little ponies, dolls and even played dress up. Bob got sick, so she made him soup. They played for hours. Throughout the day my daughter would come up to me and tell me what she and Bob were doing. I never actually saw Bob- he is her new imaginary friend.
Rachel Simpson wrote a wonderful article, Imaginary Friends, Revealed, in which she discusses imaginary friends. She cites both Dr. Benjamin Spock and Professor Marjorie Taylor.
About 65% of children have or had imaginary friends. For many years, people believed Dr. Spock's idea that imaginary friends "raises the question of whether his real life is satisfying enough" Spock went as far as to say, " If a child is living largely in his imagination and not adjusting well with other children, especially by the age of 4, a psychiatrist should be able to find what he is lacking."
Thankfully, this isn't the belief today. Psychology professor Marjorie Taylor, of the University of Oregon debunks many negative beliefs of imaginary friends in her book, "Imaginary Companions and the Children Who Create Them." She states that, "Very often adults think there is some deficit in a child's life that sparks the creation of imaginary friends, but that isn't necessarily true."
Playing with imaginary friends is just that, playtime. "For many children," Taylor reports, "creating imaginary others is just a fun thing to do."
Children with imaginary friends do not lack social skills. Taylor says these children "tend to be more sociable and to have more friends than other children."
I agree with Taylor. It is a healthy form of imaginative play. And is a positive stage in child development. I will continue to enjoy hearing about Bob's adventures with my daughter. It is an important part of her childhood, and it will strengthen her imagination.
For more on imagination, here is a Little Sapling Toys post about make believe: The Power of Make Believe
A few more articles on imaginary friends I enjoyed reading: