They tested toddlers playing with toys, and found that with fewer toys available, the children played for longer, and in a greater variety ways.
This suggests that when provided with fewer toys in the environment, toddlers engage in longer periods of play with a single toy, allowing better focus to explore and play more creatively. This can be offered as a recommendation in many natural environments to support children’s development and promote healthy play.
The trio of researchers presented 100 middle-class children, aged 3 through 6, with nine different scenarios. Would they rather pretend to bake cookies or really bake cookies? Would they rather pretend to go fishing or really go fishing? Would they like to pretend to feed a baby doll or really feed a baby?
“What we found was that children overwhelmingly chose the real option,” Taggart said. “They picked pretend for only one of nine activities.”
Why do they constantly pretend then?
I think one of the big questions is, if we have this attitude toward pretend play in the United States ─ that it is important, and children should be actively engaged in it ─ is it something they are actually motivated to do on their own? Or is it something we are showing them to do?
It’s worth noting that an entire room for children’s make-believe toys in a home is a cultural idiosyncrasy. Most people don’t do this. The USA does.
“In fact, the children told us that the reason they wanted to do things for real was because they wanted to accomplish things. And when they said they wanted to pretend, it was usually because they were afraid of doing the real thing – they felt they weren’t able to do the real.”
“…If we always relegate them to the pretend kitchen and the pretend things, we aren’t giving them the opportunity to experience doing things for real, and that might really do a lot for a child.