if by age 6,
a child
claims her imaginary friend
really exists,
then it's time to seek
professional guidance.

when i was a kid i had a morbid fear of the toilet. i was convinced that there was a vampire living just around the s-bend who would attack me if i spent too long on it, so i'd always go as quickly as possible. many years later i found out that a good friend used to believe that his body was filled with baked beans. i began wondering if other people had strange childhood beliefs and collected them from my friends and family. the book moved to this website in order to collect beliefs from people all over the world. it became apparent that there are some commonly held childhood delusions, such as thinking that cats are female dogs, that seeds swallowed will sprout fruit from your ears, and a primal fear of toilets. some of the beliefs come from overactive imaginations, but a lot are the result of parental misinformation (deliberate or otherwise). i used to believe will remind you what it was like to be a child, fascinated and horrified by the world in equal parts. the following pages will reassure you that the things you used to believe weren't so strange after all. Just be careful what you tell your own children!
Matt: The Childhood Beliefs Site

Is it normal to live in the Land of Make-Believe?

Q My 3 yr-old has imaginary friends. She talks to, and bosses around, one in particular who gets the blame when something goes wrong. My daughter also speaks in an imaginary language on occasions. Is this normal for a 3 yr-old? Or is her active imagination a symptom of loneliness, perhaps due to the fact that she is an only child in a single parent family?

A Your daughter is developing a rich, imaginative, inner world and this will stay with her throughout her life. As long as she's sociable and outgoing with other children when they are around, I wouldn't worry. In fact, many psychologists worry that today's children have too many toys that don't stimulate their imagination. Recent research has indicated that toys and games could even be stunting their early development.

Parents who can afford to buy their children lots of toys are often unaware that they may be doing their kids a diservice. Many toys force children to conform to gender roles and aren't easily adapted to different playing scenarios. For example, it's often the case that parents succumb to media pressure and buy that expensive toy they've seen advertised on the TV, only to find their little girl prefers to play with an old car or construct things with Lego. Under 5s in particular need to play with toys that allow them to take control, that are flexible and do more than one thing! Reading, singing and role-play are great ways to put the toys aside and use your imagination for entertainment and learning.

It sounds to me that your daughter is, in fact, very capable of finding stimulation in the world around her - a result of having her imagination stimulated from a young age. Creative play, such talking to imaginary friends, is an indication that she has learnt to focus and concentrate on one activity, develop her own ideas and not be over-reliant on outside stimulus. Children who are inundated with toys are often easily distracted, and have a short concentration span.

If you worry that your child is lonely, be reassured by research which shows a healthy imagination is a result of the parent engaging in play with their child, rather than leaving them with a pile of toys. The fact that your daughter has formed a 'relationship' with her imaginary friend shows she's practicing the social skills that you have taught her and this is also very positive.

Q I'm 27 and I still talk to imaginary friends. I was an only child, and I began relationships with fake friends as a way to entertain myself, but I can't seem to grow out of it. I've tried to stop, but it's so boring and lonely without them. How can I end this behavior and get on with my adult life?

A Since you acknowledge that these pals of yours are imaginary, you are obviously not crazy. Talking to your fabricated friends is merely an extension of talking to yourself, as countless people do when they are alone. Are you still often alone? I know you had a solitary childhood, but do you now have your share of companions? If not, concentrate on increasing your circle and finding new people with whom you can go to movies, plays, concerts, and other events. Meanwhile, a lot of storytellers keep a stable of imaginary voices in their heads. Have you thought about using your inventions positively and putting the celebrities of your imagination into written form? They entertain you, so who knows? Perhaps they would entertain others.

Q I'm a 53 year old webmaster and teacher and I have nine imaginary friends who come to every class with me and who have helped breathe life into the Soul Food Cafe. I made a pilgrimage in 2001 and travelled over 45 thousand kilometres, reaching Delphi and Mount Parnassus where I drank from the waters of Castalia and danced with my friends. My nine imaginary friends are the nine muses and I have no desire to break up this long standing relationship. Am I crazy?

Activities

1. Recall and write about an imaginary friend and their role in your life.
2. Write a dialogue with an imaginary friend.
3 Go to the 100 acre wood with Christopher Robin and chill it.