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Imaginary friends declining among Brit kids, study reveals

PLAY: Trends show that UK-based children are looking to other means of play time activity.

A POLL of 2,000 parents in the UK found that just 17% of children have imaginary friends, revealing a rapid decline since 2001 when a study found almost half of British kids had an invented playmate.

In a case of iPads replacing imaginations, these findings have sparked concern that the increasing use of technology is damaging kid’s creativity.

This is backed up by a recent social science study revealing that children classed as ‘heavy viewers’ of screened technology demonstrated noticeably less creativity compared to ‘light viewers’. The study concluded that with stimulation and creativity found readily made on screens, children aren’t learning the need to develop it for themselves.

Dr. Amanda Gummer, Founder and CEO of Fundamentally Children, said:

“Imaginative play is hugely beneficial for children - being able to transport themselves into make-believe worlds with imaginary characters can help them make sense of their world or provide an escape from it (something that supports good mental health in later life). Suspending reality give children the opportunity to think outside of the box and be as creative as they like, with none of the restrictions that are placed on real life activity.

"Parents can help children engage in imaginative play by providing them with a balanced play diet and managing the amount of time children spend as passive receivers of digital content. Tools such as face paints, building blocks, dressing up clothes and play dough can help to stimulate this. Free, child-led play is the super-food of the play diet and can balance the less imaginative play activities that are sometimes found in high tech toys and screen play.”

However, despite the decline, an invisible population of over one million is still keeping Britain’s kids occupied hiding under beds, sitting at dinner tables and keeping imaginations alive.

The research from Snazaroo revealed some fun insights into kids’ relationships with their imaginary friends. One of the main creative reasons for their covert companion is so they’d have someone to blame bad behaviour on.

1 in 10 children use imaginary friends as a way to push boundaries and see what they can get away with and the top 5 most common things that children tried to blame on their imaginary friends include:

- Not eating vegetables
- Making a mess and not tidying up
- Pinching siblings
- Being naughty / badly behaved
- Hiding in strange places

Snazaroo commissioned the research as part of its campaign to encourage imaginative play, finding girls are 10 per cent more likely to fictionalise a playmate compared to boys, with 37% also saying the reason behind their child having an imaginary friend was because they had an overactive imagination.

Imaginary friends are most likely to appear when a child is aged three and disappear by age seven – although some linger on until 10 or beyond.

Jack topped the leader board for the most popular imaginary friend name with Harry, Charlie, Ben, Bob and Ellie also proving popular choices in the world of fictional acquaintances.

It was also revealed that not all imaginary friends are humans and pets, as 45% of imaginary friends range from creative companions such as George the fir cone to Bessie the balloon and Pumpkin the talking bright light.

In the world of animals, cats, dogs and unicorns were the most popular choices of imaginary chums.

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