Imaginary friends are not limited to preschool age children. A study conducted by the University of Washington and the University of Oregon shows that approximately 65 per cent of all children have an imaginary friend by age seven.

The study found that preschool girls were more likely to have imaginary companions, but by seven, boys were just as likely. It also showed that children often forget imaginary pals as they form friendships or become interested in new things.

"An imaginary friend in early childhood is not uncommon and is an indication of a resourceful and inquisitive mind," says Kathryn McColskey, chair of the North Greenville University Department of Elementary Education. Pretend friends also allow children to safely act out social situations and conflict resolution.

An only or first child may be more likely to invent an imaginary friend, and language skills may develop sooner for children who talk with an imaginary friend. Although children should not be discouraged to invent imaginary friends, make sure your child is playing with other children and not existing completely in a pretend world.

Ask your child to tell you about her imaginary friend. Make sure she knows the difference between what is real and what is imaginary.

From Focus on Your Child’s Discovery Years, July 2008. Published by Focus on the Family. © 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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