The Structure and Variants of a Preschooler’s Narrative Play



The paper discusses the concept of children’s play in a broad and narrow sense. In a broad sense, play is viewed as a free, emotionally-charged activity without enforcement that includes spontaneous testing of oneself and play content. A more accurate scientific definition of play was suggested by D. B. Elkonin who regarded the action role play as the highest and most developed play form which reproduces social relationships among people. The authors believe that the latter does not cover many widespread kinds of narrative (action) play where the children do not simulate the actions of adults. Therefore, following L. S. Vygotsky, the divergence between the imaginary and real situations is considered to be the main criterion of narrative play as the leading activity of a preschooler. The structure of narrative play is believed to include additional components: objects (toys), time and space of the play, interaction with the partner and the position of the player. Based on different player’s positions, a typology of narrative plays is proposed. It includes seven variants: traditional role play, role play via a toy, individual role play, directed individual and directed joint plays, procedural play, and event-driven play where the child is acting from a real position. Recognition of the imaginary situation as the main criteria of play makes it possible to consider those play types as independent forms of a preschooler’s leading activity.

General Information

Keywords: play, narrative play, imaginary situation, play structure, objects of play, space and time of play, interaction of partners, directed play, event-driven play

Journal rubric: Developmental Psychology

Article type: scientific article

For citation: Smirnova E.O., Ryabkova I.A. The Structure and Variants of a Preschooler’s Narrative Play. Psikhologicheskaya nauka i obrazovanie = Psychological Science and Education, 2010. Vol. 15, no. 3, pp. 62–70.


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Information About the Authors

Elena O. Smirnova, Doctor of Psychology, Рrofessor of the Department of Preschool Pedagogics and Psychology of the Faculty of Psychology of Education, Moscow State University of Psychology and Education, Moscow, Russia

Irina A. Ryabkova, PhD in Psychology, Associate Professor, Department of Preschool Pedagogy and Psychology, Faculty of Psychology of Education, Moscow State University of Psychology & Education, Moscow State University of Psychology & Education, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



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