‘Imaginary’ friends: the roles of imaginary/invisible companions in the classroom

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‘Imaginary friends’ are a widespread cross-cultural phenomenon and for some children they are as important as their human friends. Exploring a gap in the literature, this paper details why and how they might be incorporated into the classroom, initially contextualised in socio-cognitive and Vygotskian socio-cultural frameworks. Applications to practice are offered, using children’s literature as a starting point for other activities. The paper is then interrupted with a challenge to the dominant Euro-Western psychological discourse, which assumes that all of these friends are playful creations of the imagination. Instead, the paper proposes a reconceptualization of human-form invisible friends by drawing on diverse disciplines and cultures, which offer alternative understandings to those posed in developmental psychology. Finally, the implications of adopting different theoretical perspectives for more inclusive, challenging, learning opportunities are considered.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEducation 3-13
Early online date14 Dec 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Dec 2023


  • Imaginary friends
  • children’s friendship
  • imaginary companions
  • invisible companions
  • children’s imagination
  • children’s play
  • children's literature


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