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Children who have Imagination

Anyone who knows my parenting style knows what a fan I am of teaching our children to “think outside the box”. I see no reason to encourage my preschooler to color within the lines. I don’t even give him coloring pages; I just give blank paper because I want to give him more of an opportunity to maximize his creativity. Lately, I’ve been wondering if I’ve went too far. William has always had an active imagination, but over the past year it has truly shot off the charts. It leaves me to wonder if I am doing something wrong, and at the same time I am awe struck and amazed.

I don’t get bent out of shape if he wants to wear clothes that don’t match or gets a little messy when he eats. I love William’s ability to appreciate the little things and I try to pick my battles. From the earliest days of his life, he’d lay in his crib with his stuffed animals and have them talk to one another. He was only about 13 months old when I began to notice these little “conversations”. Even before he could verbally speak words, his stuffed puppy would bark at his Pooh bear who would roar back. William loves balls. I’m not just talking he is a fan of balls, he is obsessed with them, much like many boys his age are over trains or girls over princess stuff. Except he doesn’t just play ball, his balls have personalities, names, and he talks to them like they are family members. He sleeps with them and cuddles with them.

Today, he actively has several imaginary friends. We relocated from Seattle to Ohio this year. We left behind some very good friends, and William left behind his best friend. Not long after our move imaginary “Aidan” began to be in companionship with us. I chalked it up to genius. If only I could just imagine my friends or family with me whenever I am lonely, it is really quite clever. There would be no need to grief if we could all live that actively within our imaginations. William would play with his imaginary friend; the friend would eat with us, take baths with him, and go to bed with him. He never had to be lonely. I found this adorable. I spoke with our pediatrician about it briefly and he assured me this was William’s way of coping with the move and loosing close relationships. I didn’t worry much because William still has an amazing skill for socialization. He’ll go up to total strangers and start up conversation. He actively plays with other kids whenever he gets an opportunity. All still seemed right with the world.

Lately, the imaginary friends have expanded. He now keeps company with Corduroy the bear (from the storybook), Brutus the Buckeye Guy (the Ohio State Mascot), and the Easter bunny. Sometimes it seems a little odd and catches me off guard. For example, last week I walked into his room to get him up in the morning and he screamed at me “Don’t step on Corduroy!” Another day, he wanted Brutus the Buckeye guy to change his diaper. He had to stop and have a 5 minute conversation with Brutus that Mommy was going to change this diaper, explain why this was important, and reassure Brutus that he could join William up on the bed and talk to him while the change was happening so Brutus wouldn’t feel left out. Yet another time, I walked in on him and the Easter bunny playing and William was so engrossed in this play that he didn’t even notice I was in the room. There are times his “friends” join us for trips to the store. Sometimes if we are climbing stairs and I look back and wonder what is taking so long I see William holding hands with what can only be one of his imaginary friends and helping them up the stairs.

It is sweet and adoring behavior for the most part. He doesn’t attempt to use his “friends” as scapegoats for something he does wrong or as an excuse to be mischievous. They are simply with us, and part of our day sometimes. He will sometimes go several days without mentioning them, and then they just reappear again. I try to take it all in stride, play along, and include the friends. I’ve even found ways for the “friends” to benefit me. If he is poking around when we are trying to get to the car, I say “it’s a race, better hurry, Corduroy is going to win!” My husband and I were shopping for appliances a few weeks ago. Certainly this is the type of big ticket shopping that requires our thought and concentration. Its also the type of shopping that isn’t the most entertaining for your three year old. William was visibly becoming bored and starting to get into things. I found myself quickly pulling out imaginary Aidan and asking him to play ring a round the rosy with his friend. You can laugh, but this bought me 45 minutes of appliance shopping with my three year old happy and engaged. If he fights going to bed, I have been know to tell him a “friend” is already in the bed and needs his help falling asleep—it has actually worked a few times!

The latest has been his imaginary junk foods. Now, I am a firm believer in kids eating healthy. William eats everything from tofu and flaxseeds to tons of fruits and vegetables. However, my kid has a huge sweet tooth. I’ve often joked that he’d eat cookies with every meal if I’d let him. Now he has found a way to do just that. He has become to bring in a plate from his play dishes to each meal. He tells me it is filled with yummy cookies and he eats them with whatever food I serve him. He even pushes the plate of imaginary cookies away when he is finished. He is still eating the real food so I figure it can’t hurt. Actually, he has even started asking for sweets less since he started eating “cookies” at every meal. Now, why can’t adults live so beautifully in our minds?

About the Author: About the Author: Gentry is a stay at home mom, with a passion for writing. For more articles on easy living, visit

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