Pretend-play is a favorite pastime for American children. They mentally transform the here and now, preparing pretend meals in toy kitchens, frolicking around on fake horses, and feeding baby dolls with plastic bottles. By age 4, children spend approximately 20% of their waking hours engaged in such play, and yet many of their pretend activities could be done for real. Indeed, several popular pretend activities, such as preparing food and caring for babies, are done for real every day by many children around the world.
We wondered: when given the choice, do American children prefer pretend-play activities to their real-world counterparts? For example, would they rather cut wooden vegetables held together with Velcro using a wooden toy knife, or would they rather cut fresh vegetables with a real knife? Our research, recently published in Developmental Science, begins to address this question.
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