Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Jean Piaget on Symbolic Play - Dictionary of Arguments

Upton I 78
Symbolic playPiaget/Upton: Two- and three-year-old children often engage in what Piaget (1923)(1) called symbolic play. In this form of play, children use one object to represent another that they do not have access to at the time, for example a lego block as a hair brush; a chair as a car; a finger as a toothbrush (Boyatzis and Watson, 1993)(2). Having the ability to pretend that a particular object can be something else that is not present shows that they have a mental representation of that object. Gradually, this ability to use symbols becomes more sophisticated, so that by the age of four children no longer need to use an object to symbolise another object that is not present. An imaginary representation can be used;
Boyatzis and Watson found that a three or four year old will use their finger as a toothbrush when the object is not present, while a five year old will pretend that he or she is holding a toothbrush.


1. Piaget, J. (1923) Language and Thought of the Child. London: Routledge.
2. Boyatzis, C.J. and Watson, M.W. (1993) Preschool children’s symbolic representation of objects through gestures. Child Development, 67(3): 729–35.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Piag I
J. Piaget
The Psychology Of The Child 2nd Edition 1969

Upton I
Penney Upton
Developmental Psychology 2011


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