Pretend play has been extensively studied in developmental science. First, we briefly review theories regarding the cognitive underpinnings of pretend play and proposals about its potential role in development. Following this, we explore accounts of pretense which emphasize the social nature of this type of play in early childhood and propose an extension to a novel account of playing in general (Chu & Schulz, 2020) by exploiting the importance of social interactions in pretense. We contend that engaging in shared pretending during early childhood can be considered a manifestation of children’s ability to participate in and set up arbitrary contextual boundaries with others. Additionally, pretend stipulations result in information that is “true” locally and contingently within the pretend framework and is only valid for a limited group of people. Engaging in pretend play thus may allow children to gain a deeper understanding of how some information is useful only within a certain scope and support them both in creating and identifying social contexts. Being sensitive to social context is crucial to navigate successfully in societies that are becoming increasingly multicultural.
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