Guest post : www.readbrightly.com
Just ‘Cause You Can’t See Them, Doesn’t Mean They’re Not There:
10 Books That Celebrate Imaginary Friends
by Melissa Taylor
Melissa Taylor, MA, is a teacher, mama, and writer from Colorado. Her goal in childhood was to read every book in the children's section of the library. She loves (in no particular order) children's books, her Kindle, Pinterest, and knitting rectangles. An education expert, she’s written for many publications, including Parenting.com, USA Today Health, and Scholastic Parent and Child. Connect with Melissa on her learning blog, Imagination Soup, or on Pinterest.
I love when children have imaginary friends in both real life and in books. One of my daughters did, and one didn’t.
Imaginary friends help a child feel in charge, less alone, and more able to express their emotions. Often, children will invent imaginary friends so they’ll have some else to blame for their behavior. (Smart kids!)
Whether or not your child spends time with an imaginary friend, it’s entertaining to read about kids who do in one of these fantastic picture books that feature imaginary friends.
by Kevin Henkes
Jessica is Ruthie Simms’s best friend, even if Ruthie’s parents don’t believe she exists. They go everywhere together, including kindergarten, where with sweet serendipity, Ruthie meets another Jessica. And they become the best of friends.
by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Christian Robinson
Leo isn’t exactly imaginary; he’s a ghost. But he doesn’t want to scare his new friend Jane with that news since she thinks he’s imaginary. In the end, it doesn’t matter if he’s a ghost or imaginary. All that matters is that he’s her friend.
by Eoin Colfer, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
Fred floats until a child imagines him. But if that child finds a real friend, Fred is abandoned and returns to floating. So Fred worries when his new friend, Sam, makes a real friend. But this time is different. Sam’s new real friend has an imaginary friend too, and soon the four make the best of friends.
by Tony DiTerlizzi
This boy’s imaginary friend, Ted, is quite the hilarious character! Ted has all sorts of ideas that get his boy into trouble. Like shaving or painting a huge Ted picture on the living room wall and making the dad’s study into a swimming pool. It’s never the boy’s fault — it’s Ted’s.
by Carter Goodrich
Phillip is so sleepy that he forgets his imaginary best friend, Brock, at the Big Fair. Fortunately, Phillip finds Brock the next day — and makes two new friends who understand about imaginary friends.
by Dan Santat
Beekle stops waiting for someone to imagine him off his island. He travels to find his special child friend. His journey to find this special person is beautiful, just like the award-wining illustrations.
by Patricia Polacco
I adore this sweet story about Emma Kate and her imaginary friend. These two special friends do everything together. But get ready for a surprise ending. Who is real and who is imaginary? The girl or the elephant?
by Judy Schachner
Skippyjon Jones has a BIG imagination. He visits an entire imaginary world in his closet where he is a Chihuahua named El Skippito. In this world, he and his Chihuahua friends bravely fight banditos until mama cat calls him back to reality. This hilarious book is one of my all-time picture book favorites.
by Lou Berger, illustrated by David J. Catrow
Harry invents an imaginary blue dog named Waffle. Harry and Waffle do everything together — hide and seek, baths ... everything. Then Harry gets a real dog for a pet, and instead of leaving Waffle behind, Harry knows just what to do so both his dog friends can play together. What a happy ending!
by Maurice Sendak
In one of the most beloved imaginary worlds of children’s literature, the child, Max, visits an imaginary island where he tames the fierce Wild Things and becomes their king.
( www.supernanny.co.uk )
The Magic of Imaginary Friends
Kids with imaginary friends have been found to be more articulate, have improved creativity and higher self-esteem. Why is this?
Imaginary friends are a natural part of healthy child development. Children use their fantasy friends to practice verbal skills, boost their confidence and for role play.
Many parents will be familiar with the sound of mutterings coming from their child’s bedroom. If they ask them who they are talking to, the response will usually be: “Nobody!”
Studies researching the phenomena of childhood imaginary friends have found that if a parent asks too many questions about the invisible companion or, worse still, tries to interact with them, the friend disappears as miraculously as it arrived.
So, when you hear your child chattering away into thin air, it is best not to intervene. It is in the interest of your child’s healthy development to keep their make-believe mate alive, and here’s why…
Imaginary friends give children the refreshing opportunity to tell someone else what to do. Their invisible friend behaves exactly the way they want them to. Your child can be the tallest, fastest or prettiest and is always the winner of the pair.
When it comes to an object of desire, some children fulfil their wish by invention. Children quite commonly invent a family pet or can be heard talking to Spiderman or Snow White in their bedroom.
Beat the bully
Made-up mates can be a useful for boosting confidence, which in turn can help a child stand up to bullies.
Break the boredom
Children with imaginary friends are much less likely to be bored. Make-believe mates demonstrate an ability to be creative with spare time.
Some children use their imaginary friend to convey a message they feel unable to say themselves, such as: “Parsley the Sheep doesn’t like it when you are cross, Daddy”.
An imaginary friend belongs to the person who invents it and no one else. It does not have to be shared with friends or family.
Fantasy friends are far from a poor replacement for real friends. Research reveals that children with imaginary friends are less inclined to be shy and are more popular.
Imaginary friends are particularly common among children with newborn siblings. It is thought that the conjured-up companion provides comfort and replaces any lost parental attention.
Practice makes perfect
A fantasy friend can give a child the perfect opportunity to practice something they want to say to someone in reality. It also gives them the chance to practice their verbal skills, which is why children with imaginary friends tend to be more articulate.
Children with absent family members or lost friends will often reinvent the person in invisible form as a healthy coping mechanism. It is quite common for a child to interact in their imagination with a close companion who has recently left school or a deceased grandparent.
An invisible friend can be a sneaky means of getting an extra portion of food – “Sleeping Beauty would also like some chocolate ice cream, Mum.” Followed by – “I ate Beauty's scoop because she wouldn’t wake up.” Imaginary friends of this kind not only suggest a propensity for creativity but also indicate that you have a clever clogs on your hands!
Somewhat surprisingly, imaginary enemies have also been found to be a healthy coping mechanism. Children may invent someone to thrash out a dispute they are having at school. Research has shown that children with imaginary enemies are more able to manage their anger and understand individual differences.
Some particularly resourceful children find that an invisible chum can be a handy scapegoat – “It was Bob who spilt the juice on your keyboard, it wasn't me” they protest, pointing at thin air.
To your advantage
Whilst a parent should never try to alter their child's imaginary friend, there's no harm into turning his or her's existence to your advantage. You could try: "Oh look, Mr Incredible has eaten all his veg" or "Why don't you have a race with Tinkerbell to see who can get dressed first?"
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