Do children prefer animals to toys?

A study has revealed that children are more interested by live animals than they are by toys.
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Children have been shown to be more attracted to children than animals, a study has suggested. When put in the same room, children were seen to gesture towards and speak about animals more than toys. This was even true when the toys replicated live animals.

Researchers at Rutgers University and the University of Virginia, in America, conducted the series of experiments with young children aged between 11 months and three years with live animals and toys.

Vanessa LoBue, from Rutgers University, believes that children could benefit from having a pet in their lives, commenting: “Our research develops the idea that animals may be a good instrument for learning. This is borne out by the widespread use of animal characters in children’s books and TV programmes.”

The research was taken from three experiments which tested the relationship between children, toys and animals. The experiments used a variety of animals, including a hamster, fish and green gecko as well as popular toys; a police car, fire engine, doll and ball. The animals remained enclosed at all times and the children could not touch them. In all three studies the children interacted more with the animals than the toys, whilst parents spent more time directing their child towards the live animals.

The researchers wrote in the British Journal of Development Psychology that: “It is important to point out that although these differences were significant, they were subtle and avoidance behaviours were extremely rare. Many researchers might find these results surprising, as they suggest that children prefer snakes and spiders to a group of highly attractive toys.”



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