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Preschool children’s social pretend play: supporting the development of metacommunication, metacognition and self-regulation

This paper presents an overview of the conceptual, developmental and functional aspects of metacommunication in preschool children’s social pretend play. While the relationship between the representational aspects of social pretend play and positive developmental outcomes is well researched, metacommunicaton in social pretend play remains a largely under-researched phenomenon. A definition of social pretend play is proposed leading to propositions as to its specific functions for young children’s learning and development. In particular, it is hypothesised that the development of metacommunication during social pretend play may make an important contribution to the early development of metacognition and self-regulation. Having proposed these specific functions for metacommunication, the implications of this for adult involvement in naturally occurring social pretend play are discussed. Identifying more specifically the components of social pretend play which support specific aspects of learning can inform pedagogical innovations, and the realisation of the full educational potential of social pretend play. While this review highlights some important conceptual, developmental and pedagogical issues in relation to metacommunicaton in social pretend play, these aspects clearly require elaboration. Suggestions are made for further research on metacommunciation development, and the conditions which support its emergence and development.