7-3 | Vygotskian and Post-Vygotskian Views on Children’s Play

Elena Bodrova and Deborah J. Leong

The authors argue that childhood played a special role in the cultural-historical theory of human culture and biosocial development made famous by Soviet psychologist Lev S. Vygotsky and his circle. They discuss how this school of thought has, in turn, influenced contemporary play studies. Vygotsky used early childhood to test and refine his basic principles. He considered the make-believe play of preschoolers and kindergartners the means by which they overcame the impulsiveness of toddlers to develop the intentional behavior essential to higher mental functions. The authors explore the theory of play developed by Vygotsky’s colleague Daniel Elkonin based on these basic principles, as well as the implications for play in the work of such Vygotskians as Alexei Leontiv, Alexander Luria, and others, and how their work has been extended by more recent research. The authors also discuss the role of play in creating the Vygotsky school’s “zone of proximal development.” Like these researchers, old and new, the authors point to the need to teach young children how to play, but they caution teachers to allow play to remain a childhood activity instead of making it a lesson plan. Key words: childhood development; cultural-historical psychology; Lev S. Vygotsky; preschool play; zone of proximal development