27 answers

Imaginary Friends

Ok, quick question: Our almost 3 year old has recently started having imaginary friends. It started with her telling us "Sandy is coming over to play with me... Oh, she's at the door! Let's go let her in..." And so we trotted to the front door, she unlocked & opened it, and proceeded to greet her 'friend': "Hi, How are you... Yes. Sure. Come in!"

We are now a week into this new phase and it has evolved into her having parties of imaginary friends (I know, goodness help us--We can never leave her home as a teenager because she's already practicing to be quite the high school party girl!!). Her imaginary parties have MANY friends come to the door, in groups or individually, and she greets them, tells us their names, invites them in.

Just curious... How much do you all placate and/or encourage the imaginary friend thing? (She wanted me to brush their teeth?!) Anything we ought to keep an eye out for or be worried about... (Besides her wanting to unlock and open the door by herself)?

Thanks for the insight!

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thanks everyone! I really appreciate the insight and advice. I actually had imaginary friends, but I guess I was selfish with them (I never wanted to share them with anyone else!) So, her asking me to interact with them as a new twist. Since posting this question, she has also went out shopping with me and her imaginary dog. However she does have a rather full social calendar on the weekends and preschool during the week... She is used to lots of playdates and friends. So perhaps instead of inventing them out of loneliness, she is more comfortable playing with "others" instead of by herself when she is home-? Definitely will try to capture the moment on video... No doubt I can use it as blackmail when she's being a difficult teenager, too smart for her own good!!

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Hi K.,
My son had an imaginary friend from the time he was about 3 years old until about 8 years old. Him and "Jake" used to do things together. They would hunt bears and lions, go camping, bath together...just about everything was with Jake. Jake just eventually went away. My son is 24 now, and he still remembers Jake, and we laugh about it. I believe it was because he was an only child, even though he had plenty of friends. My thoughts were as long as he did not do bad things, and try to blame Jake for these things, and since it did not go too far, I did not worry. Just another Mom's opinion!!

Many years ago a teacher told me that children who had imaginary friends were usually very bright and creative children. I found this to be true with my little girl (now an adult mother). She had two regular friends who lived in the mirror on the door. She would hold school classes, lining them up on the couch. There were usually more than just the two regular ones when she taught school. Her friends got to say words that she was forbidden to say, and they got to do things she couldn't do. I guess this was her outlet. Since her friends lived in the mirror I didn't have to worry about her opening the door, and I was never invited to participate in anything they did. This was her own private thing. I don't remember exactly how long this phase lasted, but I do know that is had a good long run. Maybe when she started to pre-school and made real friends, I just don't remember, but I wouldn't be too concerned if I were you. It's her special thing that she'll outgrow, and someday when she's all grown up it'll be something the two of you can laugh about.

How cute is that! This will probably go away, so I would say just enjoy it while it lasts. Play along as much as you can, except make it part of the game that you are the only one to open the door.

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Are you sure our children aren't twins?! Imaginary friends are completely normal and actually a good thing. My daughter has had the same imaginary best friend for over a year. This friend now has an entire family and they have mutual friends. It's really cute!

It doesn't sound like you have anything to worry about. You may have an event coordinator on your hands since she's already entertaining and hosting parties. :-) My daughter started doing little things (eating a cookie after I said no, not flushing the toilet, and ignoring me) and then blamed her friend. You may want to watch out for that one.

I nipped it quickly by asking questions about her friends and getting involved with some of their playtime. I would ask my daughter to describe her friends to me and just let my daughter take the lead during playtime. Eventually I learned that her BFF and family each had their own personality; which was a BIG help.

Later, when my daughter blamed her imaginary friend I would tell her that wasn't the person I saw doing whatever she did. I'd give her an opportunity to be honest; which she normally did. When she wasn't honest I just turned to her imaginary friend and explained that my DD was in trouble for lying and she'd have to go home now. After a few times of that, my daughter got the message.

I think imaginary friends are healthy. It promotes dialog and problem solving, just like real-life.

1 mom found this helpful

This sounds perfectly normal to me. I wouldn't be concerned unless the imaginary friends begin causing bad behavior like one previous respondent mentioned. Or if she doesn't play at all/doesn't play well with any real children.

Hi K.,
I just had to laugh, and laugh, and laugh. I had one of those.........David, Now 38- when he was about 2.5 he had an imaginary friend named Greer- of allthings, where he got that name I would never know- but we had Greer with us everyplace, at the table, in the car, at the store absolutely everyplace. He even had a pillow in David's bed- hsi own toothbroosh and hair brush- David even had a little suitcase he kept packed for Greer incase we took a trip .....or incase he (David) decided to "run away" hahaha it was so funny- but we loved having Greer with us- and he stayed with us until David started school and eventually forgot about taking care of Greer..........My Pedi was not at all alarmed or concerned- saying lots of children do this- we could not understand why David needed this extra friend because he was number 11 of our 12 children, so he certainly had lots of siblings to play with- but Greer was his special friend and to this day (we laugh about it) he still remembers his time with Greer-
I would just cuaution your little one to never ansswer the door unless Mommie or Daddiy was with her........just let her have her fantisy - enjoy her tea parties and the extr place setting at the table- it will go away someday and she will be fine. have fun with her.

work through a lot of things from lonliness, to family issues, to arguments with real friends.

My oldest had an imaginary friend when she was your daughter's age. Autumn had a yellow fairy that fit in the palm of her hand. She wanted someone she could talk to who always understood her.

With what you are describing, I would bet that your daughter would like either more friends or to have the ones she has visit more often.

I not only had no problem with Autumn's friend, but would even encourage it. I know it helped her out while she was still around and when Autumn started school and had more friends to talk to, the Yellow Fairy faded away.

Imaginary friends usually only last from a few months to a couple of years. Unless she starts telling you they tell her to hurt herself/others or to break the rules I wouldn't worry about them. In fact encouraging her can help you to understand why she feels she needs them. Not to mention it gives you and her a break from the harsh reality of everyday life... ;-)

I hope this helped...

I don't think there's anything wrong with it, and it's probably good for her imagination! My 4-yr-old daughter has an imaginary sister that comes and goes in these recurring phases. She has always wanted a brother or sister and we've been on an eternal adoption list, so she finally just made one up. One day she opened the back door and screamed at the top of her lungs, "SISTER!!! COME IN FOR DINNER!!!" I'm sure the neighbors think we're nuts, but oh well...

Hi K.,

I've heard of this type thing, but never have had to deal with it with my three sons. She sounds very precocious and maybe she will be doing something in the artistic field one day. If there is such a thing, maybe she actually sees her friends from another dimension wacky as that sounds. I would suggest seeking help from a professional who knows how to react to her seeing friends that aren't there. Good luck with this one! If that had happened to me years ago with my kids, I probably would have just humored them and gone along with it. Would get tiring though. Jan

Normal...great to have imaginary friends. I believe in playing along, ask questions to find out as much as possible about her ifriends, such as what they look like. Maybe even to draw what they look like. As long as it is safe, feels good, and ifriends are not monsters it is a good thing. Please don't discourge it, she will end up losing her imagination. Some people tell chilren, its not real (they lose their imagination), some say they are silly (they will introvert), some say they are crazy ( they beleive it). All the great story tellers probably started out that way. Have fun with it. C



Imaginary play is normal at this age. My son loves to pretend and he's almost 4 years old. I'm sure she's fine. Just play along with her.

Have fun!

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