Why I’m Embracing My Daughter’s Imaginary Friends

Photo by Michelle Hebert on Flickr

I just found out that our family of three is now a family of six! No, we haven’t adopted children yet. And no, our family pets don’t count. Turns out that my 5-year-old girl has introduced us to Big Brother, Baby 1, and Baby 2 — her imaginary siblings.

My first reaction was feeling guilty for not procreating more children for my only child. Next, I moved on to the working-mom guilt for not spending enough time with her during the weekday or “abandoning” her when I travel. Then the plain old sh*tty mom guilt of “I MUST be doing something wrong!” hit.

Turns out my guilt-ridden conscience is totally normal, yet conceived from plain old myths — the “Only-child” being the most prevalent one in society. The myth assumes that an only-child must be so terribly bored and lonely that she needs to make up imaginary friends or siblings to pass the time with since her parents are so insensitive to procreate a play-date. Of course, the greatest perpetrator of this myth was dear Dr. Spock back in the 1940’s.

It is true that my daughter needs constant attention and, yes, would love a sibling more than anything else in the world right now. But it’s also true that she’s got an incredibly wild imagination and creative brain. I mean, even her musical theater summer camp teachers thought so and acknowledged her with the “Most Incredibly Awesome Imagination” award. They don’t sell those in corner stores, you know! 

Big Brother and the Babies are becoming such an important part of our daily interactions now. I have to make sure they’re all fed. I can’t dare brush her teeth and not theirs. We must all cuddle up tightly in a twin bed for story-time and I must make sure they all get to see the pictures. I also make sure Camila is speaking to them in Español because, come on, there has to be some benefit in all this for me!

As you can see, my strategy has been to completely play along with it because I feel the last thing I want to do is squash her beautiful imagination. I did do a bit of research so I wouldn’t just base this on my mom-gut, and found out I was right — of course! According to an article on, “Based on his study of creative play in preschoolers, Yale professor emeritus of psychology Jerome Singer with research scientist Dorothy Singer wrote, The House of Make-Believe: Children’s Play and the Developing Imagination. The authors confirm that the imagination required to create make-believe friends is not the exclusive property of the ‘only’ child, the isolated, the ill, or the handicapped.”

In fact, according to the same authors, there are proven benefits for the 65% of children that do have imaginary friends at one point in their childhood. Click through to find out what those are.

  • Wild Imaginations! 1 of 4
    Wild Imaginations!
    Children with make-believe friends tend to be more imaginative
    Photo by Sarah & the Spider on Flickr
  • No Boring Days! 2 of 4
    No Boring Days!
    Children with make-believe friends are better able to entertain themselves.
    Photo by Ariellie Calderonie on Flickr
  • Wordsmiths! 3 of 4
    Children with make-believe friends have richer vocabularies.
    Photo by Tony Crider on Flickr
  • Good Friends! 4 of 4
    Good Friends!
    Children with make-believe friends get along better with classmates.
    Photo by John_Wilkinson on Flickr



Buy the book I co-authored, Bilingual is Better: Two Latina Moms on How the Bilingual Parenting Revolution is Changing the Face of America.

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