Imaginary friends are a sign of a lively, creative mind. But they are leaving us

By Daisy Buchanan for

hen I was three, I had a very good friend named Gemma. She was fearless where I was fretful, rebellious where I was conservative and dextrous where I was clumsy. She was also entirely imaginary. With Gemma’s help and support, I almost made it to the top shelf of the bookcase before my parents found me – and “Gemma said it was OK!” did not save me from a telling off. Gemma was also very fond of Discos crisps and Bourbon biscuits, and I became very good at smuggling them into my bedroom for her.

I can’t remember when or how I “met” Gemma, and, perhaps sadder still, I don’t remember the last time I “saw” her. Even though my brain created her, she inspired me to go on adventures I would not have had the confidence to embark upon without her. So it saddened me to see the results of a recent survey showing 72% of nursery workers believed children have fewer imaginary friends than they did five years ago, with 63% believing this to be a result of increased screen time.

It’s thought that 40% of us had imaginary friends during our childhood, and there has been a shift in the way those friendships are perceived. Until the 1990s, imaginary friends were considered to be a psychological red flag, a sign of loneliness or an unwillingness to accept reality. However, the consensus has changed, and imaginary friendships are linked to advanced social skills, strong verbal abilities and, perhaps unsurprisingly, creativity.

Read more here.

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