Objective. This descriptive study explores motivation of toddlers who are typically developing to persist with challenging occupations.
Method. The persistence of 33 children, 12 to 19 months of age (M = 15.7 months), in functional play and self-feeding with a utensil was examined through videotape analysis of on-task behaviors.
Results. A modest correlation was demonstrated between the percentages of on-task time in the two conditions (r = .44, p < .01). Although chronological age was not associated with persistence, participants’ age-equivalent fine motor scores were correlated with persistence with challenging toys (r = .39, p < .03) but not with self-feeding with a utensil. Having an older sibling was associated with longer periods of functional play, t(32) = 3.02, p < .005, but the amount the parent urged the child to eat with a utensil was not associated with persistence in self-feeding.
Conclusion. The modest association between on-task time for functional play and self-feeding with a utensil reveals that factors other than urge to meet perceptual motor challenges lead to children’s persistence. The results reinforce the importance of considering not only challenging activities, but also the experienced meaning that elicits optimal effort and, thus, learning.