Why Do the Children (Pretend) Play?

Pretend play appears to be an evolved behavior because it is universal and appears on a set schedule. However, no specific functions have been determined for pretend play and empirical tests for its functions in humans are elusive. Yet animal play fighting can serve as an analog, as both activities involve as-if, metacommunicative signaling and symbolism. In the rat and some other animals, adaptive functions of play fighting include assisting social behavior and emotion regulation. Research is presented suggesting that pretend play might serve similar functions for humans.