by on September 12, 2022  in Family & Home / Let's Talk Baby /
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Children as young as 2½ years can have an imaginary friend. Children might sometimes have more than one imaginary friend. Children usually stop playing with make-believe friends when they're ready to move on. Kids usually start this kind of play in the late toddler or early preschool years, so imaginary friends can develop as early as two-and-a-half or three years of age. Studies have shown that kids between the ages of 3 and 5 are the most likely age group to have an imaginary friend.

"Children's imaginations begin developing around 2½ to 3 years of age, marking the start of pretend play, and in 65% of children, that comes with the arrival of an imaginary friend or two," says Susan Newman, Ph. D., social psychologist and author of The Case for the Only Child: Your Essential Guide. You might wonder, "Why do kids have imaginary friends?" Children can develop invisible friends to practice their new social skills or to process the things they see and experience. Your child might create an imaginary companion to listen to and support them and play with them.

How to Deal with Your Kid's Imaginary Friend | The Swaddle

Ultimately, the presence of an imaginary friend or two is usually a good sign of normal child development. Most importantly, it's an indication that your child is exercising her wonderful capacity for imagination and creativity. Not only are imaginary friends normal, but they're also extremely common. Researchers have found that about two-thirds of children conjure up an imaginary buddy, whether it's a person, an animal or even an inanimate object.

As many as half of preschoolers have a pretend buddy. These phantoms don't mean your child is lonely or maladjusted. In fact, kids with imaginary friends are more likely to grow up to be creative, cooperative, sociable, independent, and happy. Imaginary companions are normal for most children and thus, are not a sign of mental illness or concern. Imaginary companions are NOT the same as schizophrenia, psychosis or having dissociative identity disorder or multiple personalities.

If these children are in a household that's full of abuse – be it physical or emotional – imaginary friends are a coping mechanism that allows them to feel wanted and safer. As stated above, these imaginary friends can help console them or even distract them from the events that are unfolding.

Make-believe buddies: 8 common questions about children's imaginary friends

Imaginary friends go hand in hand with the child's growth. A study from La Trobe University has shown that children with imaginary friends tend to be more creative and socially advanced. They use a more complex sentence structure, richer vocabulary, think abstractly and have better social skills. Having an imaginary friend is a normal and healthy part of childhood play. Having one has even shown benefits in childhood development. If your child has an imaginary friend, it's totally OK. They can grow out of it in their own time as they stop needing the skills that their companion is teaching them.

While the general rule of thumb is to accept your child's imaginary companion and incorporate them into your family life, it's fine to challenge your kid if their friend becomes disruptive. Parents should be concerned and talk to their doctor when a child with a buddy that no one else can see shows no interest in playing with other kids, engages in hurtful or violent behavior, blames the friend for misconduct or seems to fear the imaginary friend.

Research shows that children with imaginary friends are seldom shy, lonely, or awkward but are among the most sociable. These “friendships,” with all the role-playing they entail, help children feel good about themselves, teach them about relationships, and provide companionship, just like in the real world.

Read related articles Understanding Your Baby's Brain and Here's How You Can Tell If Baby Is Happy Or Stressed

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