Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



Major Professor

Melissa B. Hansen-Petrik

Committee Members

Katie Kavanagh, Marsha L. Spence


Maternal feeding styles have been linked to dietary intake patterns in young children. Additionally, pretend play with toy foods provides a promising means of promoting development of healthy eating patterns in this age group and the potential of it to play a positive role in the home environment may, in part, be related to maternal interactions with the child during pretend play. The purpose of the present study was to explore maternal perceptions of pretend play with toy foods in the home environment relative to maternal feeding style. Specifically, our objectives were to employ a mixed-methods approach to 1) describe maternal observations of their preschool-aged children while engaged in pretend play with toy foods and related materials, 2) describe maternal perceptions as to how pretend play with toy foods relates to real life experiences of preschool-aged children, and 3) describe mothers’ observations and perceptions regarding pretend play with toy foods and relate these to maternal feeding style. Mothers of two to five-year-old children (n=25) were recruited via Facebook posts, online mother’s groups, recruitment flyers to childcare centers, and emails sent to a local database of mothers. Eligible mothers were invited to complete an online survey to collect sociodemographic data, classify the mothers as one of the four feeding styles, and gather their observations and perceptions regarding pretend play activities with toy food and related materials in the home via a series of open-ended questions. Patterns emerging from qualitative analysis of the mothers’ responses in combination with information on feeding style from the Caregiver’s Feeding Styles Questionnaire (CFSQ) suggest that mother’s interactions with their children and perceptions of the role of pretend play contrast by the dimensions of demandingness and responsiveness. Further exploration of the interplay between mothers and children in the pretend play environment will help to clarify how the role of pretend play with toy foods in promoting healthy eating may vary with maternal feeding styles.

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