Session note Session notes

Session notes for Imaginary friends Stages: 3 to 5 years


For some good background information about imaginary friends, start by reading session note Learning through pretend playOpens in new window (25–36 months) and the recommended reading Imagination (3–5 years).

Imaginary friends

Imaginary friends are surprisingly common in young children. Researchers at the University of Oregon found that by age 7, 37% of children have created an invisible friend.

These friends can be human, animal or even a fantasy creature. There may be just one, or there may be a group.

Pātai atu ki te whānau:

  • Is this something you’ve ever noticed with your tamaiti?
  • If your tamaiti has an imaginary friend, how do you feel about that?

Help whānau understand that it is not a sign of trouble or cause for concern. An imaginary friend can help a child to develop coping strategies for difficulties or even traumatic experiences. An imaginary friend can also help tamariki to cope with fears and to explore ideas.

Imaginary friends are a particular sort of pretend play — they can be part of a child’s life for several years.

Pātai atu ki te whānau:

  • How have you or would you respond to an imaginary friend in your whare?

Sometimes the imaginary friend can get the blame for doing things the child knows are not okay with whānau.

But whānau don’t need to buy into that: ‘No matter who made this mess, it still needs to be tidied up!’

It is okay for whānau to ‘live with’ the imaginary friend, to play along, to ask their tamaiti about their friend and get insights into the child’s thinking, feelings or concerns.

How does this relate to the SKIP resources?

Baby wall frieze - Whakarongo mai.  Listen to me — whānau can learn a lot about their child’s thinking, feelings and fears by listening to their imaginary playOpens in new window

Six things children need - Te ārahi me te māramatanga.  Guidance and understanding — whānau can praise their tamaiti for using their imagination. When adults ‘play along’, tamariki sense they’re worth listening to and that their ideas are interestingOpens in new window

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