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When children are introduced to a novel toy, they explore to discover how the toy works, but do not always discover all of the functions (Bonawitz et al., 2011). Research has shown that children prefer objects with a familiar character on them (Danovitch & Mills, 2014). This study investigates whether the presence of a familiar character’s image on a novel toy encourages exploratory play. Four- and 5-year-olds (n = 40) were presented with a novel toy, containing 5 different functions, that either displayed an image of their favorite familiar character or an image of that character’s color scheme. Children were given up to 5 minutes to play with the toy. Children’s play was coded for the number of functions they discovered and how long they played with the toy. Results showed no significant difference between conditions for number of functions discovered. However, children who were given a toy with their favorite character’s image on it spent significantly more time exploring the toy than children who had a toy with the character’s color scheme on it. These findings suggest that seeing a familiar character on an object promotes children’s exploration of that object.

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Children; Exploration; Play; Media Characters


Developmental Psychology

Stay and Play with Mickey Mouse: Familiar Characters Increase Children’s Exploratory Play