There is no rule that says that children HAVE to have invisible or imaginary friends, but if they do, many will have them when they are 3 or 4 years old. It is fairly common for parents to worry about whether it is “normal” to have invisible/imaginary friends and to worry even more if this type of fantasy play continues into the elementary school years.
Only one of my three children ever had an imaginary friend (that we knew about) and she was pretty developmentally on-target. If I remember correctly, it was from about the age of 4 until the beginning of first grade. My sister, more than four years younger than me, had no less than four imaginary friends when she was around the same age—that was a lot of imaginary socialization to manage!
Rest assured that if a child continues to have an imaginary friend into first or second grade, it is still relatively normal and probably not cause for concern. Parents just need to pay attention to the HOW and the WHY of the imaginary friend play to see if there are any red flags. Understanding what role the imaginary friend fulfils for your child will help you to see if it is healthy or potentially unhealthy. And, for a four or five-year-old—imaginary friends are pretty standard.
I am sure that I’m not alone as a parent in sharing that I got pretty attached to my daughter’s imaginary friend and was a little sad to see her go. Sure enough, after more than a year of having to include “Meka” in all sorts of family meals and activities, she was gone just about as suddenly as she appeared. One day I mentioned her, only to have my daughter say “Meka isn’t real, Mom, I just made her up.” Ah, the fabulous imaginary Meka was gone for good.
See Also: Imaginary Friends