Age Specifics of Role-Playing with Play Tools in Preschool Children



This paper is part of a larger research focused on observations of preschool children in free make-believe play with different objects. This paper presents the outcomes of observations of children’s play with toys that imitate real objects (cups, swords, irons and so on).The dynamics of play activity in different age groups (3, 4, 5 and 6 years) is shown. In the two younger groups, role renaming is extremely rare and is accompanied by play actions, while children do not change their appearance in accordance with the role. From the age of 5, the number of renaming increases sharply: two-thirds of children call themselves some kind of a role name, many dress up, and the vast majority plays a role. At 6 years, there is a slight decline in the number of children with role renaming and a slight increase in the number of children who change their appearance as compared to 5-year-olds.In the environment with toys imitating real objects, the role emerges in response to toys, which significantly differs from how the role appears in the environment with open-ended materials. The paper describes the roles that were employed in the play with toys.

General Information

Keywords: free play, role play, role substitution, object substitution, toys, open-ended materials, preschoolers, play tools, open-ended environment

Journal rubric: Developmental Psychology

Article type: scientific article


Funding. This work was supported by grant RFBR № 18-013-01226.

For citation: Ryabkova I.A., Smirnova E.O., Sheina E.G. Age Specifics of Role-Playing with Play Tools in Preschool Children. Psikhologicheskaya nauka i obrazovanie = Psychological Science and Education, 2019. Vol. 24, no. 5, pp. 5–15. DOI: 10.17759/pse.2019240501. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


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Information About the Authors

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:

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

Elena G. Sheina, lecturer at the Department of Preschool Pedagogy and Psychology, Faculty of Psychology of Education, Moscow State University of Psychology and Education, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



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