6-1 | The Role of Make-Believe Play in the Development of Executive Function

Article

The Role of Make-Believe Play in the Development of Executive Function
Status of Research and Future Directions

Laura E. Berk and Adena B. Meyers

Abstract:

The authors discuss the association between make-believe play and the development of executive-function (EF) skills in young children. Some forty years ago, Lev S. Vygotsky first proposed that make-believe fosters the development of symbolic thought and self-regulation. Since then, a small body of research has produced evidence of an association between pretend play and such EF skills as inhibitory control, but its results have been inconclusive and more studies are needed. Still, some research points to the potential mediating role of private speech in the association between pretense and EF, and other evidence suggests that adults can support children’s EF development by facilitating and encouraging (but not controlling) young children’s make-believe play. Yet other research indicates that the influence of make-believe on EF may be moderated by child characteristics and by the content and themes of play. The authors specifically call for more research on the potential causal link between pretense and EF development in early childhood. Keywords: executive function; inhibitory control; make-believe; pretend play; private speech; sociodramatic play