September 1, 2014

What is Pretend Play?

There are many ways to describe pretend play. I describe pretend play as incorporating conventional-imaginative play (ie, play with toys such as dolls, trucks) and symbolic play (ie, play with unstructured objects or inanimate objects). What makes pretend play distinct from other types of play is that when children pretend there are three cognitive skills that can be observed.

These are: using objects as something else (also called object substitution or decontextualisation or transformation of objects), attributing properties to objects (eg, the doll is asleep or the tyre is flat), and references to absent objects or places (eg, a sweep of the arm indicates a door, or paying for food at the ‘shop’ with invisible money). Children can use these attributes when playing with toys as well as unstructured objects.  These three attributes are noted by several researchers as making pretend play distinct within all the types of play.