Sometimes, imaginary friends are an extension of the child’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Asking indirect questions about their imaginary friends can help you understand a child’s inner state and emotional landscape.
Imaginary friends help children cope with stress, new surroundings, feelings, or situations. They can serve as a protective buffer for a child’s mental state, syphoning their negative experiences. It can also give a child a sense of control and practice for navigating new and confusing social situations without the risk of social repercussions or discipline. It gives them a way to explore different scenarios, reactions and behaviour to see which one is the most appropriate.
Young children still have a very limited sense of the world around them but magical thinking augments it temporarily. It helps them make sense of a world that may not make sense to their still developing minds.
As Einstein once famously said, “"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."
For parents whose children are beginning to engage in magical thinking, if you’re wondering when it will stop, researchers think children start figuring out some things don’t work as they magically thought by age 10. They usually begin to question the possibility of Santa making a worldwide run entering through chimneys and dropping gifts at this age. Slowly, the magical thinking wanes and children begin to think more logically about cause-and-effect relationships. But before that happens, parents may still have to accept that children will thank Santa for the wonderful gifts they find on Christmas morning.