Child dressed as doctor

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NEW YORK — Most of us grow up aspiring to have an exciting career be it an astronaut, police officer, doctor, or professional athlete. But how many actually go on to fulfill those early dreams? The answer may surprise you. Nearly half of adults say they’re living out their childhood fantasies — working in their “dream jobs” from when they were young.

A new survey of 2,000 Americans reveals that 43 percent are currently living out their childhood dream and an additional 19 percent have previously worked in their dream field. On average, those respondents first landed their dream jobs at age 23.

What’s your dream job?

Dream JobThe results delved into these dream careers and revealed that doctor or nurse (33%), lawyer (24%), and actor (23%) were the top things Americans wanted to be when they grew up. Artist (22%) and teacher (21%) rounded out the top five dream careers for respondents — with other notable mentions including a race car driver, an archeologist, and “anything where I could do paperwork.”

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of The Genius of Play, the survey of 2,000 parents with kids between three and 14 also looked at the factors that influenced respondents’ career paths and discovered an interesting connection between those and how they played as children.

While the top factors that influenced respondents’ careers include the activities they participated in as a child (50%) and the media they consumed (40%), one in three (35%) say how they played also had an impact.

In addition to that, respondents say their parents’ jobs influenced their career trajectory (34%), as well as the toys they played with while growing up (32%). The impact of toys may not be entirely surprising, as the average respondent first decided on their dream job at age seven.

Playtime helps career time?

Dream JobFor working Americans (about 1,800 respondents), 87 percent believe the skills they learned while playing as a child helped them succeed in their adult careers. Some of these soft skills include creativity (56%), teamwork (50%), and problem-solving (42%). People also learned skills like empathy (41%) and communication (39%) through play.

Playing as an adult can also be useful, as 79 percent think taking time to play now helps them be more creative when solving a problem at work.

“One of the great things about play is the value it offers to people of all ages,” says Anna Yudina, senior director of marketing initiatives at The Toy Association, which spearheads The Genius of Play, in a statement. “As we can see in the survey, play helps kids learn new skills and can guide them as they’re thinking about potential careers — but it can also help adults, allowing them to be creative and think outside the box.”

“That’s why we recommend prioritizing play at every age, and we have a variety of play ideas available on our website for easy access,” Yudina continues.

How you play reveals your future career?

The survey also looked at the next generation, asking respondents about their children and connecting play and potential career paths. Eighty-six percent of respondents encourage their child to play, so they can learn valuable skills to use when they’re an adult.

The results also find 77 percent watch how their child plays, as an indicator of what their future jobs might be — and 71 percent believe they have a “pretty good” idea of what career their child will choose as an adult, based on how they currently play.

“What we play with as kids can have a major impact on our adult careers — so it’s no surprise that parents try to influence how their kid plays,” Yudina adds. “Our survey found that’s especially true with STEAM toys, as they’re trying to spark interest in math or science. Whether kids develop a life-long passion for science or not, it’s important to give kids a variety of toys to play with, as that’ll help give them avenues in which to explore future career paths.”

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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