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Pretend Play of Young Children in North Tehran: A Descriptive Cultural Study of Children's Play and Maternal Values


The findings of this descriptive study on the cultural aspects of the pretend play of upper middle class children in North Tehran are based on an-hour long interview with mothers of 38 young (n = 17) and old (n = 21) preschool children (half were girls). Influences of children's daily activities, cultural and family values and Tehran city-life conditions on children's pretend play were investigated.

Children's daily life influenced time available for play; mothers believed that play time had decreased due to increased participation at enrichment classes, more time spent watching TV, frequently going out along with mother, and reduced number of siblings and children in general. Children mostly played pretend indoors due to pollution and hazardous traffic. Despite dislike of clutter, mothers allowed children to play anywhere in the house as long as safe and comfortable. Children had a wide range of toys, which lend to all themes of play; mostly toys were related to Everyday Activities; girls played as frequently with Family Care and boys with Fantasy toys. Mothers appreciated toys for increasing creativity and imagination, and child's happiness and learning.

Majority of children's play partners were relatives and grownups. Their non-relative play partners were children's of mother's friends, and a few played with neighbors. Most mothers wished the child had more young play partners, however, would not invite a play partner if unsure of homogeneity of family values. Children's themes of play were mostly related to everyday activities. Girls, in addition, frequently played Family Care and boys Fantasy Themes and Danger in Environment. Themes did not vary by age, however, younger children more frequently engaged in thematic play. Mothers disliked themes of violence.

Mothers' perceived social functions of play were mostly related to bonding with relatives, having a fulfilling and enjoyable time, and learning appropriate social values and behaviors. They also valued increasing creativity and imagination. They believed that pretend play is essential for children's development and its deprivation will have negative developmental consequences.

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