- Object substitution (e.g. using a banana as a phone)
- Pretend attribution of properties (e.g. pretending to be at a nice warm beach on a cold day)
- Imaginary objects (e.g. an imaginary car or food)
The research evidence for pretend play
Bretherton5 also argued that pretend play provides children a unique opportunity to exercise their emotional mastery.
- Children who showed higher levels of imagination during play were rated as having better emotion regulation by their parents6.
- Pre-school children who engaged in more role-taking and acting scored higher on emotional understanding interviews7.
- Children whose play was high in fantasy scored higher in an affective empathy task8
- Dramatic pretend play games improved emotional control among four year-old children with low socio-economic status9
How can you support children’s pretend play?
1Pretense and representation: The origins of “theory of mind” (Leslie, 1987)
2Play and its Role in the Mental Development of the Child (Vygotsky, 1976) in Play: Its Role in Development and Evolution (Bruner et al., 2017)
3Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes (Vygotsky, 1980)
4Mind, meaning, and affect: Proposals for a theory of pretense (Fein, 1989)
5Pretense: The form and function of make-believe play (Bretherton, 1989)
6Pretend play, creativity, and emotion regulation in children (Hoffmann & Russ, 2012)
7Pretend and Physical Play: Links to Preschoolers’ Affective Social Competence (Lindsey & Colwell, 2013)
8Supporting the development of empathy: The role of theory of mind and fantasy orientation (Brown et al., 2017)
9Dramatic pretend play games uniquely improve emotional control in young children (Goldstein & Lerner, 2017)
Dr Zhen Rao
University of Cambridge Research Associate