My 8-year-old daughter has a huge collection of little toy animals which she plays with daily. She has given each a name, a unique personality and its own voice. She can sit for hours and play with them all alone, very content. My son used to play with her occasionally but he never got into make-believe as deeply.
We all went and saw Toy Story 3. To me, it was just like the other Toy Stories and I found the redundancy a bit boring. The kids liked it. During the movie, my indomitable philosophical mind thought about childhood imaginary friends with their different personalities and how we outgrow them (a theme in Toy Story 3). What is happening there? My view of multiple selves came to mind — I saw toy play as being an outward dialogue with our own multiple selves or possible selves. Play, then, is a psychological growth activity. We outgrow them when this dialogue become more internal and more automatic — but the play continues.
Ethologist say that when young animals and children wrestle, tussle and play, they are (unknowingly) practicing for battle and learning about dominance. Perhaps talking to our toys is preparation to more sophisticated relationships to our multiple selves and others.
Question for readers: Why do you think kids are shy to do such play in front of adults?