The invisible friend to whom the child talks and plays with, many parents have concerns and doubts as to whether the toddler is developing properly and whether everything is okay. A preschool child has an extremely vivid imagination, he likes to color and color many things, he is also no stranger to small lies. The invisible friend is part of the preschooler's fantasy world. If the make-believe friend is not accompanied by symptoms such as avoiding real contacts with peers, inhibition of speech development, isolation and aggression, then there is no need to worry.
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1. Symbolic play of the child
In early childhood, the ability to recall absent objects and phenomena with symbols and signs appears. In preschool age, a child masters various symbolic systems and chooses those related to the culture in which he lives. Symbolic representation, as well as the ability to imagine things, phenomena, beings, are associated with the development of intellectual processes. Symbolic play consists in replacing some objects with others, e.g. a banana is to be used as a telephone receiver. In symbolic play, the toddler does not imitate reality, but assimilates the world to his representation of reality. In other words, it presents in play what it knows about reality.
Until the age of four, the toddler projects symbolic patterns onto new objects. He does this in the form of reproducing his own pretend actions, e.g., faking a teddy bear crying, or imitating observed activities. During this developmental period, the child also likes to replace real scenes with imaginary ones, e.g. preparing a doll for a bath. From the age of four to seven, symbolic play becomes orderly - children use many substitute objects, assume roles and rules related to it. During play, the child builds their own worlds in their imagination, e.g. home, shop, city, etc. In this way, they learn about social roles, such as mom, dad, salesman, doctor, etc.
Playing with cuddly toys also plays a special role in preschool age. They are of great importance for the emotional development of a child. Soft toys and other cuddly toys help your toddler move from emotional contact with the mother to emotional autonomy. Sometimes this role is played by imaginary playmates. An imaginary friend does not immediately mean a developmental disorder in a child. This phenomenon is perfectly normal, and even extremely desirable from the point of view of emotional development. A pretend friend is often made by toddlers who are only children and do not have great interpersonal possibilities with their peers. Such an imaginary friend compensates them, in a way, for their “hunger for contacts” with other children.
2. Make a friend
Parents are most often concerned when a preschooler talks to himself and is still accompanied by an invisible friend. Such a child's play with reality can be terrifying. However, there is no reason to be concerned when a child is developing normally, is cheerful, resolute and developing speech. In preschool age, toddlers have a very vivid imagination and often create a "parallel world" to the real one - a land of fantasy. This phenomenon is quite normal. However, if a child is over four years old, has only a world of his own, avoids contact with other children, is withdrawn, withdrawn, apathetic and does not speak, you should immediately contact a specialist. The child's strange behavior, language and social deficits may suggest early childhood autism.
3. Imagination of the child
Young children often make up friends, name them, play and talk to them. Sometimes they tell their parents about their imaginary friend. Such a friend can be a big rabbit, a faithful listener or a real troublemaker. Scientists are of the opinion that the creation of imaginary characters by a preschooler proves a high intellectual potential and is one of the stages in a child's mental development. Sometimes such an unreal friend helps the child to cope with fears - with an invisible friend it is easier, for example, to survive the first day in kindergarten. Besides, you can blame him for a lot of pranks.
Some specialists say that a child's imaginary friend can contribute to the development of speech, support the child's creativity and acquire new skills. By talking to a friend who does not really exist, the toddler acquires linguistic competence, learns to construct sentences and conduct a conversation. Because he has to impersonate both sides that are conversing with himself, he also learns to see the world from the perspective of others. It is easier for him to understand and show feelings such as friendship or love.
In addition to the child's conversations with an invisible friend, parents may be disturbed when the toddler is talking to himself. He tells himself something, "thinks out loud". Talking to yourself is also a significant part of a child's mental development. Scientists believe that this type of speech can account for up to 60% of what a child under 10 says. Do not scold your toddler for talking to himself or eliminate such behavior. It does not indicate any mental disorder. This is how the child "processes" reality.
4. How to react to the child's invisible friend?
Certainly, parents should not worry immediately that something is wrong. An imaginary friend will probably disappear in the late preschool period. It is also not allowed to make fun of the child's imaginations. Treat the child's imaginary friend with understanding - if the toddler wants the cookie to also get his "sprite", give it to him. Preschoolers are eager to tell imaginary stories and like to color reality. Three- and four-year-olds do not yet distinguish fact from fiction, and their imaginations are extremely vivid. Sometimes they don't tell the truth, which doesn't necessarily mean lying. Fantasizing that they have a friend is sometimes a reflection of desires and dreams. An invisible friend, making up stories and coloring reality at some point in a child's development is quite normal. A small child does not see the boundary between the world of pretend and the world for real. And that is absolutely positive.