Whether your 4-year-old’s imaginary friend is new or a holdover from earlier years, it’s normal for you to worry that she hasn’t outgrown the habit as she nears school age. It’s also normal for a 4-year-old to have an imaginary friend. Research conducted in 2004 with preschoolers found that 65 percent of children 7 years of age and younger will have imaginary friends, according to the American Psychological Academy. Children have reasons for creating imaginary friends and they get something from the experience.
Reasons for an Imaginary Friend
Children usually begin to create imaginary friends around 3 years of age, so your 4-year-old is right on schedule. Children know they are pretending and the friends are not real. Although most have imaginary friends for fun, some children create the friends to safely work through difficult emotions or situations. A child might create an imaginary friend when a new baby comes home or a friend moves away. The imaginary friend, which is familiar, safe and comforting, can erase loneliness and allow your child to be in charge. Most imaginary friends are invisible, but some children use real items such as animals and stuffed toys.
Imaginary friends are a part of the fantasy and make-believe that is important for child development. Children who create imaginary friends have developmental advantages such as advanced verbal skills, according to researcher Marjorie Taylor. Children sometimes create multiple friends and whole worlds with enemies and complex social interactions. Your 4-year-old child might interact with her imaginary friends to try out emotions such as fear and anger. She can play games and make up scenarios. She can practice her negotiating skills and develop empathy. Children who have imaginary friends are more capable of considering different points of view.
How to Respond
Don’t embarrass your child or make fun of him. The relationship with his imaginary friend is private and he will want you to stay out of it unless invited. Follow his lead as he interacts with his imaginary friend and avoid making suggestions about the make-believe. Allow him to create his own story. Too much involvement from you can confuse him about reality and make-believe. Your 4-year-old is in charge, so he will probably limit your involvement to activities like setting a place at the table for his friend or making room for his friend in the car. Fill his day with friends and activities as he gets older to draw his interest away from the imaginary friend.
Recognizing a Problem
Although the imaginary friend is normal, healthy childhood occurrence, some red flags can signal the need for intervention. There might be a problem if your child constantly plays with his imaginary friend, even when his real friends are around, or if the play is violent or disturbing in other ways. Try to find out the role the imaginary friend fills in your child’s life. Ask about the friend’s name and talk about what they do together. If you are worried about the imaginary friend or if the friend is still around when you child is 9 years old, talk to your doctor.
As the pressure to pass standardized tests increases, even preschools are spending more time on strictly academic subjects. Instead of a general introduction to the alphabet, many preschools include a ...Read More
Just because your little learner's lead teacher makes it look easy, doesn't mean that acting as an early childhood educator is simple. Teaching preschool age children requires highly specialized training ...Read More
The best time to send your child off to school depends largely on whom you ask. Proponents of starting kindergarten as early as possible believe it gives a child a ...Read More
Your little one may face a culture shock in daycare if your Christian values prevent him from doing things that are common in many daycare centers. That does not mean ...Read More
In the world of foster care and adoption, when it comes to siblings, keeping them together is always the first choice. Even though in your mind, you see yourselves all ...Read More
Most parents adore that toothless gummy grin, but whether you like it or not, teeth begin to surface as your baby turns around 6 months old and his first milk ...Read More
You can use the camera on your iPod Touch to take VGA-quality photos and store them on the device, but you can also transfer high-quality photos from your computer to ...Read More
Because it's not enough that your preschooler or kindergartner can build an amazing sand castle and (almost) tie her own shoes -- now you have to worry about her math ...Read More
While an early educational program might not ensure that your preschooler is Harvard bound, it can help her to learn better. Whether you are looking to build on a specific ...Read More
In the beginning of the PC revolution, when monitors where often 12 to 14 inches in size, using your keyboard directly in front of the screen was not an option; ...Read More
Instilling self-control by establishing and sticking with rules is the name of the game when it comes to reigning in misbehaving toddlers and preschoolers. Self-control -- something many adults could ...Read More
As the mom of a toddler or preschooler, you are probably well acquainted with the magic of dipping. There's just something about dunking her meal that can get even the ...Read More
Potty training is a normal part of every child's physical and emotional development, but not every child develops at the same pace. If your child is resistant to potty training ...Read More
The grief that accompanies parental death can trigger psychological side effects for your child. If these psychological effects are long term or if they interfere with your child’s emotional or ...Read More
According to the Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development, 80 percent of children living in the United States have at least one sibling. Many children have more than one sibling, and ...Read More
There are a number of psychological tests used to measure intellectual ability in children, but there are a limited number that are available for preschool-aged children. Although measurement of skills ...Read More
Toddlers are curious by nature. Young children in the toddler stage are discovering their independence and are interested in exploring the world around them. However, their exploration can lead to ...Read More
You don't have to break the bank to throw your little one a top-notch bash. Free or low-cost places such as public parks are creative alternatives to the more pricey ...Read More
If you're looking for a fun activity for you and your preschooler, (and an unforgettable party treat) these puppy cupcakes are sure to please. If you want to get creative ...Read More
Sensory play activities are enjoyable and educational for your toddler or preschooler. You're encouraged to join in the fun but expect to get your hands messy! Any pastime that stimulates ...Read More