of Make-Believe Play
Lonnie R. Sherrod Graduate Faculty New School for Social Research
Jerome L. Singer Yale University
Although at least three forms of childhood play can be distinguished -- sensory-motor, pretend, and games with rules ( Piaget, 1962) -- pretend play is specific to human childhood. It is the one activity done by most children and done most by children; the vividness and uniquely human-child quality of this type of play is the source of our interest.
Typically, imaginative tendencies in childhood are linked to adult forms of creativity and fantasy (we address the development of play and its continuity in the succeeding section), and this is indeed a useful and meaningful connection. However, children's make-believe play (and we use imaginative, pretend, make-believe, and symbolic play interchangeably -- all referring to play structured by the child's imagination) and adult forms of recreation and amusement (sports such as football and tennis, and games such as chess and charades, as well as fantasy activity such as daydreaming) may be connected in at least three ways.
First, and perhaps most importantly, the person's first instance of involvement in these adult roles is likely to be in the form of -- or context of -- pretend play during childhood. The following description of a child playing a purely imaginative badminton game with his mother underscores this point.
Matthew . . . comes into the kitchen holding a child-sized badminton racket . . . Mother: "Did you get it? Where did it go? Down there?" Matthew: "I got it!" and runs out of the kitchen after an imaginary shuttle-cock . . . Matthew swings the racket hitting the imaginary shuttle-cock . . . Mother pretends to toss the shuttlecock back to Matthew. They continue, Matthew and