Role Substitution in Preschoolers’ Play with Toy Characters



This paper is a part of the research devoted to observing free play with different role-playing materials in preschool children.Here we describe the results of our observations of preschoolers’ play with toy characters (dolls, figures, soft toys, etc.).It was found that there are significant gender differences in this type of play: boys either do not play at all or play in the director’s position; at the same time, if they take on a role, they tend to ignore toy characters.As it is shown, the number of role-playing names is quite high in the children’s play with toy characters.This may reflect the specific function of this type of material in play.Among the prevailing play topics are family, home, pets, everyday life and motives of care and attention in general.Age analysis showed that the number of children with roles increases at 6 years, while at 5 years — when play is at its peak – role substitution in playing with toy characters is rather ignored by children.

General Information

Keywords: free play, role play, role substitution, object substitution, toys, openended materials, toy characters, dolls.

Journal rubric: Educational Psychology


Funding. The reported study was funded by Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR), project number 18-013-01226.

For citation: Ryabkova I.A., Sheina E.G. Role Substitution in Preschoolers’ Play with Toy Characters. Psikhologicheskaya nauka i obrazovanie = Psychological Science and Education, 2021. Vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 41–50. DOI: 10.17759/pse.2021260102. (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 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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