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Pretend play, creativity, and emotion regulation in children.

The aim of this study was to examine relationships among pretend play, creativity, emotion regulation, and executive functioning in children. Pretend play processes were assessed using the Affect in Play Scale (APS), which measures children’s cognitive and affective processes, such as organization of a plot or use of emotions. Sixty-one female participants, in kindergarten through fourth grade, were assessed using the APS to measure pretend play ability, a divergent thinking task (the Alternate Uses Test), a storytelling task to assess creativity, a measure of executive functioning (the Wisconsin Card Sorting Task, Short Form; WCST-64), and parent report on the Emotion Regulation Checklist (ERC). Using correlational analyses, pretend play significantly related to creativity as measured by divergent thinking and storytelling, and related to emotion regulation. Affect expression in play was significantly related to affect expression in storytelling suggesting cross-situational stability. Divergent thinking ability was significantly related to creativity in storytelling. In general the magnitudes of the correlations were of medium effect size. No significant relationships were found with executive functioning. The results of this study support theories that suggest play, creativity, and emotion regulation are linked.