Tag Archives: imaginary friends

Monsters and Imaginary Friends – Back with a Vengeance.

imaginary friends

A while ago I wrote about my middle daughter’s pre-occupation with monsters in Monsters and Imaginary Friends.

The monsters haven’t gone away.  In fact we have more monsters now, her sister has her own monsters that sometimes come out at night to steal her things.  There are monsters that come if we can’t leave the big light on in her bedroom.  Sometimes there are nice monsters who help people , they are called names like fluffy and softy.

The imaginary friends have also developed to become a permanent fixture in our house.  It began with Emily.  Emily would regularly come for a sleepover and often it is Emily’s birthday. Emily’s story has become more elaborate, she now has a brother called Jack who often visits too and today we were introduced to a host of pets (3 dogs and 5 cats).  In the car a few days ago I was told that Emily’s mum and dad were dead and so she lives with her nanny and grandad.

I love the way that the stories are evolving, it shows how her imagination is developing and that she is beginning to understand the conventions of storytelling. Interestingly she sometimes tells me that Emily is just pretend.

A new study into imaginary friends at the University of Durham cited that children with imaginary friends are usually aware that others can’t see them and it is  the child’s behaviour  that makes other people  aware of their existence.   The imaginary friend  helps children to know that their knowledge is privileged.

The researchers presented children aged 4 -8 years with cards on which they wrote their own name, mum or dad and their teachers name. They then had 3 boxes, a large one labelled knows a lot, medium sized box labelled knows a little and a small box labelled doesn’t know anything.  The children were given questions such as

When you are ill how much does your mum know about you being ill?

When you are ill how much do you know about being ill?

The children with imaginary friends were most likely to describe themselves as having the most knowledge.  Having an imaginary friend gives children opportunities for self-examination.  The children with imaginary friends saw themselves as an authority on interior aspects of self such as dreaming and on those which adults could judge (illness, hunger and having fun). It could be that imaginary friends help children to understand that their internal world is private. (Davis,Paige, Elizabeth 2011).

If this is the case then how much more is going on in her little head that she decides not to share? A wonderful reason to get 3 year olds to start telling and recording stories.

Monsters and Imaginary Friends

My 2 year old has recently become pre-occupied with monsters, sometimes she is a monster, sometimes there is a monster in the room but she mentions them at least once a day.  I was fairly sure that this was a developmental stage connected with how young children make sense of the world .

She has also started talking about a bat that lives in her bedroom.  There is a small cubby hole in her bedroom where the stairs cut in for our loft conversion – the bat lives in here.   When I questioned her about it further she said that there were 3 bats a baby (with her baby sister’s name) a daddy (with her daddy’s name) and a mummy called Rachel.  There are also 3 ogres that live in the cubby hole with them – they scare away monsters.

This story made me think about the connection between the whole monster obsession and imaginary friends.  When my eldest daughter was around 3 she had an imaginary friend ‘Piglet’ from Winnie the Pooh.  Wherever we went Piglet came with us and usually my daughter would pretend she was Roo and I was Kanga.

By a strange turn of events as I was thinking about these things and trying to find some information about the development of imaginary friends and foes in young children, Penny at Alexander Residence wrote a post about imaginary creatures.

Imaginary companions usually start appearing between the ages of two and a half to three, around the same time as children start to engage in complex fantasy play. This also signals the beginning of abstract thought.  Children are starting to replace physical objects for mental images, for example they can derive comfort from the thought of a teddy bear in addition to the physical object.  Their fears also begin to change from concrete things like dogs or vacuum cleaners to abstract concepts such as monsters. You could help children to have the power to conquer their fears by capitalising on this imagination and asking them to suggest what the monster might be afraid of and making a concrete object to represent it.

In my quest for information about imaginary friends and foes I found an interesting book about children’s imaginations, ‘ The House of Make Believe ‘ by Dorothy G Singer and Jerome L Singer. The book suggests that the key components to fostering creative children are

  • A key person who inspires play and accepts invention with respect and delight
  • a place for play
  • open-ended and unstructured time
  • simple objects to inspire the adventure

The book also discusses their research into imaginary friends.  They found that parents reported that children with imaginary friends were largely happier and more verbal than those children who did not have imaginary friends and that the children were not shy.  Imaginary friends are more prevalent amongst only or first born  children and they can help children to solve dilemmas.  Often they take the form of real characters from television or film in particular super heroes.

Charles Schaefer found that teachers of adolescents reported that their most creative pupils had imaginary friends as young children.  Imaginative children were more likely to have parents who valued imagination, curiosity, adventurousness and creativity.

So if your child has an entourage of imaginary companions don’t despair that they are disturbed or worried about something .  Develop the stories with them and enjoy it for the short period it lasts – I loved this imaginative phase with my first and I’m looking forward to the wonderful tales that my slightly bonkers 2 year old will unravel.