Imagination often blossoms around age three. How wonderful this stage of development is. Imagination in a preschooler is a sign that she is developing intellectually and emotionally right on schedule. Imagination begins a child on the road to abstract thinking and learning that symbols and thoughts can have other meanings, a quality important for doing math and reading. Fantasy and make-believe allow children to work through their problems and fears. Peers usually replace their imaginary friends and make-believe thinking around the age your child goes into kindergarten.
A child's disappearance into her fantasy play allows her to accommodate her deepest wishes with imaginary gratification. By recalling the events of her day through fantasy play, she is often able to deal with and process overwhelming and incomprehensible elements of the real world. Your child is able to do and be in her fantasy world what she is unable to do or be in the real world. Fantasy also allows her to work through stressful relationships in ways that don't attract rejection or punishment. For example, she can act out negative feelings toward her parents, siblings, playmates, and caregivers. Your child can practice social skills with her imaginary friend in a non-threatening, self-reliant way. Imaginary friends can help the preschooler deal with missing or absent parents, upsetting friends, and powerful urges. Imaginary friends can provide a companion when lonely, a comfort after a time out, and even a figure to blame for misdeeds.
Don't debate the existence of your child's "friends." The questioning often chases your child's imaginary friends away for a while leaving your preschooler without her "assistant" for dealing with the real world.
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