5 Benefits of Having an Imaginary Childhood Friend

Written by Dr. Eric Perry

“Well, I’ve wrestled with reality for thirty-five years, doctor, and I’m happy to state I finally won over it.” ~Elwood Dowd-Harvey

I love old movies. One of my favorites is Harvey, a 1950’s comedy that stars James Stewart. He plays a character named Elwood P. Dowd who has a companion named Harvey. The funny and problematic part is that Harvey is a 6’3 1/2″ tall invisible rabbit. In the real world, seeing imaginary beings as an adult may be signs of a mental disorder or it can be seen as part of one’s creativity depending on the circumstances. Many fiction writers talk about the characters in their books taking on a life of their own. They are able to see the characters and easily bring life to them in their stories. At one point in history, having an imaginary childhood friend was seen as a troubling behavior. These children were seen as odd. These days there has been a shift in thinking and having an imaginary friend has become less stigmatized.

An imaginary friend is a childhood friend that is visible only to the child. In one study, 65% of all 7-year-olds reported having an imaginary friend at some point in their life. It is a separate created character that can be a person, animal, ghost, monster or angel. Some children report seeing their friend only in their heads, and others will claim to see them in physical form. Others will claim to only sense the presence of their friend. There is no specific type of child that will have an imaginary friend. By the time they reach school age both boys and girls are equally likely to have an imaginary friend. The peak age for having an imaginary friend is between three to five and they start to taper off at the age of nine. In rare cases, they are friends for life. The author Agatha Christie had imaginary friends into her 70’s. Research shows that having an imaginary companion is a normal part of childhood and may even be beneficial to some adults. The human brain is simply amazing in its ability to create.

Here are some benefits of having an imaginary childhood friend:

1. Helps develop social skills
“When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.” ~Walt Disney

By engaging in play with an imaginary friend a child can practice behavior and responding to situations they have not yet encountered. It also allows the child to practice interacting with people. A child with an imaginary friend will often adopt different roles with their friend and play out different scenarios. One of the benefits of this type of play is it allows the child to be more open to new ideas in the real world which is essential to socializing and creativity.

2. Allows child to experiment and explore the world
“The world is but a canvas to our imagination.” ~Henry David Thoreau

Having an imaginary friend provides a child with an ally to help make sense of the world. The child can create their own world and their imaginary friend can help them practice future real-life interactions in a safe way. This type of play can also be seen as a form of visualizing future events. The child can play out different scenarios and events and act out as well as verbalize how they will respond.

3. Develop language and problem solving skills
“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.” ~Ludwig Wittgenstein

By practicing communication with an imaginary friend, a child can strengthen their language skills. Two of the main activities for a child with an imaginary friend is talking and problem solving. Often times, the imaginary friend will have a different perspective and the child will engage in a debate with their friend. Also, the ability to see two sides to an argument strengthens the child’s ability to problem solve and understand the emotions of another person.

4. Provides comfort
“A daily dose of daydreaming heals the heart, soothes the soul and strengthens the imagination.” ~Richelle E. Goodrich

An imaginary childhood friend may provide comfort in times of stress, boredom and loneliness. Further, if the child feels powerless they will have someone to help them feel more powerful. A child does not always get to make decisions, but with an imaginary friend they can be the boss and decide what game they are going to play and when. Children will use their imaginary friend to express feelings when they feel uncomfortable. They may express their likes or dislikes to their imaginary friend.

5. Creative Outlet
“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” ~Albert Einstein

Children who have an imaginary friend are more creative than their imaginary friendless peers. Consistently research has shown that children with an imaginary friend test higher on creativity tests than those who did not. The creativity that is unleashed in the creation of the imaginary friend spills over into other areas of the child’s life.  The human brain is simply remarkable. The only limit to a child’s imaginary life is his or her imagination.

Did you have an imaginary childhood friend? If yes, how did this impact your life? Please share your story in the comments section.

The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a professional relationship with the reader. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a medical professional. Please note, I am unable to answer your specific questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.

Dr. Perry

Copy of Dr. Eric Perry

“I help ambitious and high achieving individuals manifest a life of success and fulfillment in order to achieve the life they truly desire.”

Dr. Eric Perry | drericperry.com

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48 responses to 5 Benefits of Having an Imaginary Childhood Friend

  1. L.E. Hunt says:

    I had an entire city of about 1-inch-tall friends and was bffs with their leader for several years when I was younger. Then I started writing. Imaginary friends have turned into maladaptive daydreaming lol. Thanks for the cool post!

    Liked by 6 people

  2. lilithu says:

    What a great post! Not only did I have an imaginary friend (called Jeffrey – who my mother acknowledged by setting an extra place at the table for him) – my son also had not one – but two. Their names were Clunk and Ray Tugweld. Clunk was often blamed when my son broke things or was naughty. I’d say, “Where is this Clunk? I’ll smack his bottom!” Then my son would say, “Oh, he’s on vacation.”

    A friend of mine, who was a Psychologist – told me that pretend friends were fine until the children blame them for their own bad behavior, so of course I was worried. After talking to my son about that he started owning up to things – especially when I told him that I still loved him but was sad with what he’d done. (He finally admitted that he knew that Clunk and Ray weren’t real.)

    My cousin had Batman and Robin for imaginary friends. She made them face the door when she went to the toilet!

    Liked by 4 people

    • MakeItUltra™ says:

      I love hearing stories of imaginary friends! Thank you so much for sharing 🙏🏼✨

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Rayne says:

    Thanks for this post. It was an interesting read. I don’t think I had an imaginary friend as a child, but I SORT of have one now, which is quite embarrassing to admit.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I had an imaginary friend named Amanda who slept in an imaginary bunk above my bed …. I think my social skills turned out pretty legit even though I now have a tendency to mutter to myself 😂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I had many imaginary friends….. I also like the movie “sybil” 1976, yes I know she had different personalities but being young when I saw the movie I preferred to think of it as different friends that gave protection. So I developed mine lol

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Izrael says:

    I still remember my imaginary friend when I was young. I would agree with your post that there are a lot of benefits of having one and my friend definitely helped me during my tough times during my childhood. Much love. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Aui V. says:

    My children watch Harvey, and that’s the named they used on our first car!
    I don’t know if it was an imaginary friend I had when I was a child because it was a stone. I keep it and talked to it because I believe then it had powers!! Lol! Thank you for sharing this one 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I had an imaginary friend when I was very young and my Mom still likes to recount some of the wild stories I made up about her. Your statement about the imaginary friend having a different perspective than the child definitely rings true for me. I don’t really remember much about that time in my life, but I do tend to see more than one side of issues. Maybe that was a gift from my “friend.”

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Frances Sullivan says:

    Such gentle openness on the subject. We all need imaginary friends, irrespective of age! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Jake says:

    The great thing about Childhood Imaginary Friends is they never go away. ….wait, is that just me??

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I recall having two imaginary named Johnny and Pedro. Lol I am definitely a creative person. I don’t talk to em now, but I imagined them away to London, where they are living a great life. They’re rich.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. rebeccaelvy says:

    What a great post! I had an imaginary friend called Gonk. Mum left him behind at the grocery store once… I made her turn back so we could get him.
    Thanks so much for posting!

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Authoress51 says:

    I have to admit that I still do. She has been my imaginary friend forever and will probably always be here. That’s a secret most people don’t know.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. I had one named Secret. But this friend was more like a mischievous spirit that I made my little sister believe would tell me things like where something was lost. Little did she know, I would hide the things and then pretend Secret told me.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. My daughter has had an imaginary friend since about 2 and still enjoying kitty’s company. Now 5. Apparently they are sisters cause her parents died and I adopted her. They are continually having parties with kitty’s friends. This article helps me understand it. I’m glad it’s so beneficial for her to have an imaginary friend, but I’m glad she enjoys her real life friends too.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. mindelate says:

    This was such a interesting and fascinating read! I’m enjoying the comments on everyone’s imaginary friends confessions too 😂

    Liked by 2 people

  17. The Gender Hippo says:

    I can relate. Imaginary friends definitely help you work out things. I still have a few now — only I call these daydreams “scenarios” and take real people and turn them into engaging characters. I often find myself sharing about my life and thoughts, or simply have someone there while I pace with anxiety. I also have scenarios in which I argue with others — this is also valuable in that it helps me explore different aspects, such as how mean someone can be, how to respond, and empowerment through having an outlet where I can win for once. I’m 19 years old and perfectly happy with my real/not real characters. I sometimes think about encountering a friend in my head in real life and wonder if I’ll be able to detect if that friend is truly the real one right away.

    Liked by 2 people

    • MakeItUltra™ says:

      I am glad you enjoyed it and thank you for commenting! ✨


  18. whatsmymuse says:

    I still have imaginary friends and I know they aren’t real but I feel a true connection with them. My imaginary friends can be there whenever I like. During times of joy, sadness etc. They are real in the sense that they bring me comfort and support like my real life friends. I’ve told doctors about them and they say “It’s ok as long as you understand that they are not real”. I slip into an imaginary world constantly throughout my day. Sometimes purposely and other times automatically.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Ted says:

    My daughter has had an notional champion since about 2 and still enjoying pool’s troupe. I sometimes intend about encountering a champion in my capitulum in material life-time and admiration if I’ll be able-bodied to notice if that champion is truly the material one right field away.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Good article! Something fascinating is that 65% who reported having an imaginary friend. This number may be higher because parents often don’t tell their kids that they have imaginary friends.

    I, for instance, didn’t know my childhood friend didn’t exist until I was in my 20s and I happened to mention him in conversation to my mum. Apparently they were advised by the school not to break the illusion.

    It’s funny because it was so real to me. I even gave him a present when I left school to move somewhere else! It’s strange that I knew instinctively that moving schools meant leaving people behind. I was only about 5 or 6.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Willow Croft says:

    I did…her name was Susan, and we would go up in the attic and play (we had no attic) in dreams as well. She had a white old-fashioned dress, always. That’s where I first met her. I used to write her letters when I was awake so she’d know I was thinking of her when we were apart at school or something else.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. lunarpoet says:

    Working in childcare I found myself nodding quite often. From my educational point of view and also bearing in mind that we nowadays really try our best to see children as competent constructors of their own reality, us being the co-constructors, I find an imaginary friend to be most helpful. Especially considering the skills/beneficiary factors you described. I wonder if imaginary friends might be evolved from the regular infantile animism (don’t know if I translated that term properly). Great article, as usual!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. WindRider711 says:

    This post made me smile. 🙂 I had an imaginary friend as a kid that was a tiger. My eldest child had two imaginary friends. One was “green monster” and the other shared my son’s name. lol

    Liked by 1 person

  24. JJS says:

    My imaginary childhood friend was Spot – the dragon who lived under the stairs in The Munsters. When I was about 6 years old I marched myself over to the new neighbors to welcome them. Couldn’t have done it without the courage Spot lent me. I’m currently a bit anxious about social networking. Perhaps I need to invite Spot back into my life…

    Liked by 1 person

  25. L.B. says:

    I love this post. It reminded me that as a child I had an imaginary friend name Lulu. She was my best friend and I honestly thought she was real!This must have helped my creativity because I grew up to be a clothing designer.

    Liked by 1 person

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