A couple months ago, I noticed my daughter regularly drawing, well, a creepy, big-eyed creature. After it was drawn she would talk to it. "Who is that?" I asked. "Spooky Polly. She's a skeleton. She lives in a Halloween house. Her favorite food is spiders, and her friends are bats." So this basically confirmed two things for me: one, my daughter is my high school goth phase realized. And two, kids have amazing imaginations. So I decided to ask other parents about their kids' imaginary friends, because, surely, there are invisible folks out there we should know more about.
In a recent survey of 1,000 children in the United Kingdom, British financial services company Legal & General made some interesting discoveries. While invisible friends (like, who's to even say they're imaginary, because you can't prove they aren't real!) aren't the norm, they aren't uncommon, either. According to the survey, 37 percent of children would have an imaginary friend by the time they're 10. (Incidentally, research from the University of Oregon backs this up, finding that 37 percent of children would have an imaginary friend by 7.) These friends most commonly make their appearance between age 3 and 5. And while most were human (and, interestingly, usually the same gender as the child in question, particularly among boys), kids don't limit themselves to same-species friendships.
You know what this means? If we extrapolate this data, there could be tens of thousands of unicorns roaming around the moors and meadows of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, I have to worry about Spooky Polly haunting my damn house. At least she's getting rid of all the spiders, I guess?
Here's what other parents have to say about their kids' invisible playmates, because we're not alone, my friends. We're not alone.
"My daughter has an invisible flying unicorn named Pixie. They run a lot of races together. Pixie also has a baby named Croissant, but he's too small to fly yet."
"Leo (a girl) used to be around a lot. Sometimes Leo's brother or friend Sprinkles would be around, too. All invisible. Sometimes my daughter points out Leo's house when we are in the car. No physical descriptors. Sometimes I need to talk to Leo's mom on the play phone. Leo comes around less since little sister is bigger and able to play. Sometimes she would tell stories about Leo's family and a cousin who was killed by a car in a tornado. Very random."
"My daughter loved playing with her imaginary baby dragon friend when she was a toddler. The name changed from day to day, but their adventures were always the same. They would have to save the prince and princess in the mighty forest together. The dragon always had jeweled pink and purple skin. Her baby dragon friend turned up daily for a solid year."
"My daughter's imaginary friends are snakes! There are hundreds of them and they can drive. Sometimes she sets up a classroom to teach them, though they get rowdy. Duwala is the oldest."
"My son, now 10, had many. Melissa, Greggy, and Rainbow were a trio. They had a band and moved to California. I also remember fondly Pia the Opossum and her son, Elbert. Pia was often away on expeditions and would communicate with my son via Pia Device (a mini Doodle Pro magnetic drawing screen thingy). Finally, there were several hand-creatures called tashabaus and ambulacitas that were represented by various positions of his fingers. My favorite of those was named Baked Good."
"My 4-year-old doesn’t have an imaginary friend, per se, but she does have an imaginary family. She often tells us that she has another dad named Speedy who has rainbow hair, a purple shirt, and orange pants. She also has a sister named Juice, and a brother named Jackson. Occasionally, she’ll say she has another mom named Rosie. Her dad, Speedy, is an irresponsible parent who lets her eat all the candy she wants and lets her ride dinosaurs."
"TT is my daughter's imaginary friend. She's a ghost cat that she sometimes pushes on the swing and often blames when naughty things occur. She also is often present at night to sufficiently freak out the parents."
"My 4-year-old is very much into imaginary friends right now. His favorite is called Pickle. We had to go through a whole routine this morning of dropping Pickle off with his grandparents (also imaginary) before we could leave for preschool."
"My daughter’s imaginary friend was Coco. She appeared when my daughter was about 20 months old and stayed for a while. They would read together and play together all the time. Coco wasn't something silly or an excuse, it was just a companion. She was there for about six months, if I recall. Not to make anyone question my sanity, but Coco appeared a few weeks after I had a miscarriage. If the baby had been born her name would have been Colette and we would have called her Coco. But my daughter never knew that I was even pregnant. Insert spooky music here."
"My daughter has an imaginary husband and daughter. Her husband's name is John CocaCola and her daughter is Caitlin. ... They live in Florida and John’s family apparently owns Coca-Cola. He drives a Coca-Cola truck and takes her to fancy dinners."
"My son is 4 and has had two imaginary friends for about a year now. Chornord (a boy) and Wornord (a girl). They mostly help him with his fire and EMT rescues. And they often do or say silly things that my son will correct."
"My daughter has had a whole town of imaginary friends! Her husband is Hank. She once drew a picture of him for me: he has a beard, wears checkered button down shirts, glasses, works at both Trader Joe’s and the Apple store, lives in the mountains, and drives a white van. There’s also Nicole, the hairstylist, who is tall, skinny, and blonde with very expensive clothes and very large boobs.
Dr. Anna, who sounds remarkably like Dr. Anna from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and is apparently very gentle. Danielle the dance teacher, who choreographs dance shows every damn day, usually to Hamilton and always just before bedtime. And the best fried Guyee, who has a crush on Hank even though she’s married to Jordan.
There are more, but these are the regulars. My daughter talks to them out loud and responds as them. They’ve all been living in our house with us since she was about 2. She’s currently 7.5 and earlier this year they stopped coming around as frequently. I miss them."
"My 4-year-old has a little imaginary friend named Datos, and he lives on the moon."
"My daughter had a stuffed tiger named Tiger. Tiger had a really eventful life. At bedtime she would tell us all these stories, like, "Tiger's house burned down when she was 4 and now she's an orphan so I let her live with me." But she had details. It was wild."
"So my son had an imaginary friend named Apple, when he was around 4. We couldn't leave in the car until I had 'buckled' Apple in; I couldn't put my bags on 'Apple's seat' in the car; etc. Apple came about after an adult friend died unexpectedly, and Apple was always dying in accidents, so I think my son found it really helpful as a tool to process his emotions. My daughter has an imaginary 'Other Mom' that she talks about all the time. She's described her in tons of details, and all the fun things her other mom lets her do, like extra dessert and getting a kitten. It is hilarious to me."
"In our old house my toddler at the time kept saying there’s a man in the corner by the bird’s cage and he named him Crazy Ears. The bird mysteriously died a short time after the 'sightings.'"
"My daughter had two imaginary friends. Her first one was named Shavender, and he was a little boy who used to come over to play with her and would occasionally join us for dinner. Then, after a few months, another imaginary friend joined the mix. His name was Oonks. It turned out that he was Shavender's little brother. He appeared right around the time that her friend got a new little baby brother. Shavender and Oonks used to get in trouble quite a bit, usually for something my daughter had recently gotten in trouble for, and she used to enjoy describing for us how Shavender and Oonks had been punished for their indiscretions."
"My 4-year-old has a shadow friend called 'My Friend Shadow.' She says he’s like the shape of a circle and she always wants to play with him but he never wants to. She thinks he’s shy. He only likes to play with other shadow friends. She says she always wants to play tag with him but he’s super fast."
"When my daughter was little we had a little pantry closet in the kitchen. At dinner time she would say the Piggies lived there and would come and mooch dinner off us. They came a lot."
"My daughter started talking about a friend we couldn't see and it was freaking me out. We decided to ask her more about 'Didi' to find out where on a scale of 'harmless' to 'demon ghost' we were. Turns out Didi is a purple and white shark who lives in the ocean and only visits occasionally."
"My oldest used to have one, he called him his 'Imagination Friend' and his name was Morger (soft ‘g’). Morger lived in Africa and Michael would visit his house there. I miss Morger!"
Writer's Note: I'm sorry, but did you honestly think I was going to get through an article about imaginary friends without referencing Bing Bong? If I have to cry over Bing Bong you all have to cry over Bing Bong.