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date: 23 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter presents a comparison of Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s theories of symbolic play and provides an extension of them. By comparing these theories on the basis of their conceptualizations of symbolic play with regard to its origins, immediate functions, and future outcomes, we reach the conclusion that symbolic play is an activity of interpretation. We then provide an extension of their theories of play by indicating a blind spot shared by both Piaget and Vygotsky: both theorists considered symbolic play as primarily individual rather than fundamentally social and cultural activity. Going beyond Piaget (1945) and Vygotsky (1967), we argue that symbolic play’s developmental origins, functions, and consequences are structured by children’s social and cultural lives as well as by individual children themselves, and that a sociocultural approach is necessary to understand children’s play fully. We conclude with some educational implications of this proposed view that integrates personal, social, and cultural engagement.

Keywords: Symbolic play, Piaget, Vygotsky, intersubjectivity, cultural differences in play, educational significance of play

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