A recent study published in Developmental Psychology found that 65% of 7-year-olds in the United States say they've had a pretend friend at some point in their short lives.
This Slate article reminds us that even recently "imagined playmates made parents and psychological experts worry about children's mental stability. . . Contemporary psychologists risk domesticating a phenomenon that, for good as well as ill, thrives on at least some freedom from sober adult investigation."
The article also asks what are all those other kids doing with their time? since "play" constitutes most of a child's daily life, and I wonder if it really makes all that much difference to a child's emotional life and the adult he or she becomes.
I've noticed Helena starting to give her toys voices and personalities. At this stage, the dialogue isn't very elaborate:
Toy: Hello Helena! Ca va?
Helena: Veux-tu manger?
And that's about the point to which has evolved my own ability to imbue puppets with life.
I was never any good at making stuff up. (This may go a long way toward explaining why I will never write a Great Novel, or any novel.)
I have a vague recollection: When we were 8, my best friend made an allusion to her imaginary friend. I remember feeling weirded out, and the "subject" never came up again.
I know better than to discourage any companion Helena may conjure, and I'm not the creative force to inspire one either. (J-F often puts words in the cats' mouths, but we equate that more with subtitling — he didn't have imaginary friends either.) Whether Helena needs or wants one, and is able to bring one to "realize" one, remains to be seen.