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Most preschools and kindergarten classrooms have at least one child who would rather play with an imaginary friend than her classmates. I was that kid.
My mother and grandmother love telling stories about the years they couldn’t sit down without my bursting into tears and yelling that they’d squashed Tucker. When I was between the ages of 3 and 7 or so, Tucker was my best friend.
Tucker was kind, smart, funny… and only I could see him.
He was named after a beloved family friend. I had a large, ugly, weird rag doll I called by the same name for times when I needed Tucker to have a bit more substance. After all, imaginary friends are hard to cuddle!
Tucker wasn’t the only one, though. While he was definitely the leader, I had two other invisible pals, Sally and Jason. They were twins.
According to Psychology Today, 37% of children have imaginary friends. Despite what some people think, research shows that children with invisible playmates generally aren’t lonely or unhappy and typically don’t have trouble interacting with their peers. In fact, creating a friend often helps children process and cope the traumatic events of life.
Oldest children, only children, and kids who don’t watch much TV are most likely to imagine friends. This is most likely because they have the time and space to be creative and engage in imaginative play. This was certainly the case for me. I’m the oldest by three years, and our rabbit ears got very few channels.
My friend Carrie’s oldest daughter just turned eight. She’s taken dreaming up friends to the next level: she has an imaginary husband. She has a doll that she pretends is their baby. Thanks to advances in technology, her imaginary husband can reach her on her imaginary cell phone with baby care questions while she’s taking a break from the responsibilities of being a wife and mother.
Have fun with your child’s imagination. Play along when appropriate. After all, imaginary friends tend to eventually go away on their own.
My grandmother pretended to be totally mortified when I shouted at her that she’d walked in on Tucker using the bathroom. She agreed that Tucker needed his privacy and urged me to make a sign for the bathroom door so others would know when it was in use.
She encouraged my creativity and kept me busy with paper and crayons for a while. What a wise woman!
Did you have an imaginary friend? Does your child? Tell us about them in the comment section below!