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Pretend Play Skills and the Child’s Theory of Mind

Pretend play has recently been of great interest to researchers studying children’s understanding of the mind. One reason for this interest is that pretense seems to require many of the same skills as mental state understanding, and these skills seem to emerge precociously in pretense. Pretend play might be a zone of proximal development, an activity in which children operate at a cognitive level higher than they operate at in nonpretense situations. Alternatively, pretend play might be fool’s gold, in that it might appear to be more sophisticated than it really is. This paper first discusses what pretend play is. It then investigates whether pretend play is an area of advanced understanding with reference to 3 skills that are implicated in both pretend play and a theory of mind: the ability to represent one object as two things at once, the ability to see one object as representing another, and the ability to represent mental representations.