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Object use in childhood: development and possible functions

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The ways in which children use objects is central to many theories of development, yet we lack systematic descriptions of the various ways in which objects are used across childhood. In this paper, I first describe the different forms of object use (i.e., exploration, construction, play, tool use and tool making) for males and females in childhood, then establish time budgets for each type of object use. Second, I make functional inferences about each form of object use and the social contexts in which each is embedded. I suggest that putative functions of object play, specifically, may be related to children’s discovery of novel uses for objects, as well as peer group centrality in abundant niches. These dynamics produce a connected social network in which object play and group structure might interact to spread novel ideas.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Educational Psychology, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus, Minneapolis, MN, USA


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