Stuffed Animal Imaginary Friends

In my book, The Right Side of Normal, I talk about imaginary friends being a representation of a right-brained child’s highly developed imagination. I also talk about the idea that right-brained children can view stuffed animals and toys as “real” ala Toy Story and The Velveteen Rabbit. Both my oldest artist son and my writer daughter enjoyed a strong attachment to their stuffed animals, but it wasn’t until my youngest dynamo son that I saw it taken to a whole other level.

It’s been at least five years, because this picture was taken shortly after we moved into our country home. You may have to look closely to see Teddy tucked down in there with him. He would have been seven years old here.

Most of his “best friends” have been teddy bears. Unfortunately, like the Velveteen Rabbit, these teddy bears get so aggressively loved at times, they don’t make it. This is something different from my two older children. On the other hand, my dynamo son is, well, a dynamo. But, he actually can have a whole crew of animals at his disposal. From a hand puppet hippo (who didn’t make it either), to dogs, elephants, penguins, owls, beavers, and horses. If they come into his possession, they make the clan.

But, he always has a favorite. And that favorite is part of his life. It’s not a matter of him saying, “Oh, let me have him to play with right now.” From the moment he wakes up to the time he goes to sleep, he is his constant companion.

From family fun time...

to playing video games...

to practicing soccer...

to homeschool time...

to catching his big fish.






























The only time he doesn’t bring his stuffed animal imaginary friend with him is in public. But, he brings him in the car to and from the event, and if he feels the people involved would accept his “friend,” he’ll bring him along. In fact, at a homeschool corn maze gathering, he had his little pocket-sized elephant in his pocket (see the homeschool time picture).

His characterizations of his stuffed animal imaginary friends are quite elaborate and life-like. He knows I love his guys, and certainly they come in handy with motivating him to do various things. If my son doesn’t want to do something, I can always ask his teddy, who always has a willing heart. His soft-hearted bear also can help my son soften his own heart when he often has a more push-back oriented personality with his dynamo personality. It seems to make his emotional transitions easier if he has a buffer to work from indirectly.

I’ll miss when this stage is over…

4 responses to “Stuffed Animal Imaginary Friends

  1. My son also has imaginary friends, both the invisible to the rest of us kind, and the stuffed animals as characters kind. He’s done this since he was 2, and had favorite “little people” toy goat and hippo who went everywhere with him. He is now 8, and still often takes a friend along, at least for the car ride, as your son does.
    An interesting thing he has done is take scary creatures, especially legendary or imaginary animals, and made them his imaginary friends. It seems to be his way of dealing with something that scares him, and I think it is just wonderful!

  2. Hhhmmm, Jezanna, you got me thinking. I wonder if it’s such a big deal in my dynamo son’s life because he is my only extrovert. Being the youngest in our homeschooling journey, he may not get as many interactions with friends as he would naturally need. We do a lot, but this makes up for in between. He has no desire to go to school for this reason, though. Yep, I’m thinking that’s what it is based on when it started…at the age he wanted more interaction because he was old enough to crave it more.

    My builder son is the one who had traditional invisible imaginary friends. Though he said there was an association with his LEGO people. Very interesting…

  3. Cindy, this is my oldest RB daughter to a T. She is also an extrovert. As a young child, her animals were just as real to her as people. (She was also somewhat isolated, as my next child didn’t come along for 5 years). I would try to “clean out” the animals I thought she didn’t play with, only to be met (usually that very night) with, “WHERE is hippo, Mommy?” Every picture of her has an animal in it. The striking thing to us was that although there were favorites, the animals all got playtime – no animals was left out (and this child has 30-40 of them! everyone knew what to get her for a gift….) In addition, she had invisible friends. One in particular was “Invisible Philippe,” a unicorn-pegasus. Invisible Philippe went everywhere with us; the road noise in our car was I.P. and her herd. She moved with us from Florida to Virginia, and back. My daughter frolicked and played with I.P. in the backyard, on nature hikes, on car rides. She was definitely a companion during some hard transitions in our life. (I remember a friend of mine was horrified, and said she forbid her children from having invisible friends for fear they were demons…. although that struck me as bizarre, I wonder how many other parents are uncomfortable with it). At 12, her stuffed animals are the only toy remaining in her room. And we still sometimes ask her if I.P. is with us, usually met with a sheepish grin and a “Maybe …!”

  4. Aw, Robyn, this makes me happy. Yes, your daughter reminds me of my son. He does seem to get play time in with all his animals as well, though his only reaches about ten altogether. But, in about every picture you’ll see his animal in tow. These will be good memories for him…and me…as well. Once people understand the connection to the imaginative world of the right-brained person, I hope imaginary friends and an attachment to stuffed animals will be more appreciated and supported.

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