Many caregivers often wonder how to interact with and respond to a child’s imaginary friend. At Care Courses we offer a course called Imagination at Play, which can help early childhood professionals understand and promote children’s imaginary play.
Pretend play is perhaps the most visible manifestation of imagination as young children experiment with their emerging social skills through role-playing. Some children develop imaginary friends as they begin to form their own identities and to test the boundaries between fantasy and reality. Yet despite some worry, imaginary friends are often quite beneficial to children’s development.
Imaginary friends help children:
- Learn about the world.
- Understand roles and relationships.
- Practice emerging social skills.
- Explore issues of control, discipline, and power without the anxiety of interacting with real authority figures.
- Create a world where the child is in control and calls the shots.
- Provide an outlet for children to express and work through the normal anxieties of growing up.
Once parents and caregivers understand that imaginary companions are a healthy component of children’s cognitive, social, and emotional development, they usually feel more relaxed. The only cause for worry should be if the child shies away from meaningful interactions and exclusively interacts with the imaginary playmate.
Other helpful tips for caregivers:
- Imaginary friends often make an appearance during times of stress or change.
- Speaking for the companion or contradicting what the child says about their invisible playmate can frustrate the child.
- Telling the child that the playmate is not real will stifle their imaginative development.
- Caregivers may need to foster tolerance in children who may ridicule others for having an imaginary friend.
Observations and conversations are good ways to get to know about imaginary friends. Watch and listen to interactions between the child and their playmate. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, act silly, and be playful!
In our Care Course, Imagination at Play, we discuss a variety of ways to support children’s imaginative development and how to be supportive of children’s imaginations. If you’d like to learn more, the course can be found on our website.
Please let us know how we can be of additional assistance! Call us: 1-800-685-7610, Monday through Friday, 9-5 ET, or email us days, evenings and weekends: info@CareCourses.com. We’re here to help!