My four year old has imaginary friends. She talks to, and bosses around, one in particular who gets the blame when something goes wrong. Is this normal? Or is her active imagination a symptom of loneliness, perhaps due to the fact that she is an only child?
Don't worry, your child is not only normal, she's also very creative. Having an imaginary friend is part of “imaginative play” and quite common between 3 – 5 years of age. Researchers at Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada say that between 40 and 65 percent of all children have imaginary friends at some point during childhood.
Her growing imagination creates this ficititious friend. Kids can scold, praise, blame, remind their friend, they can work through a range of different emotions and act it out, just like imaginary play of having a tea party. It also helps your child to learn and figure out language. In fact kids with imaginary friends usually have a richer vocab than other kids their age.
And yes it’s quite common for the ‘friend’ to get the blame when things go wrong. If she blames her friend, don’t make a big deal of it, just move on past, and remind her of the rules, or help her clean up a spill etc. I’d avoid the conversation that tries to get her to admit you know that there’s no way her friend did it, just the same as I’d avoid joining in the conversation with her imaginary friend, or invite, or participate in her conversations. Think about it this way, if you include the ‘friend’ into your house then it’s like to continue for longer.
There is a few myths when it comes to imaginary friends. It is a myth that single children have more imaginary friends than other kids, that’s not to say they don’t have them, just that there is no research that concludes that this is true. We do know however, that kids with imaginary friends tend to be less shy than other kids their age and can focus more and have that ability to see what it’s like in someone else’s shoes. Not a bad skill to have, I must say. It is also a myth that firstborns are more likely to have an imaginary friend. Also it is NOT a sign of loneliness or distress to have an imaginary friend. Your daughter is fine, let her enjoy the company of her friend, she will soon out grow the phase.