A cultural-historical reading of how play is used in families as a tool for supporting children’s emotional development in everyday life

Feiyan Chen, Marilyn Fleer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Many studies have identified the positive link between imaginary play and emotion regulation in laboratory settings. However, little is known about how play and emotion regulation are related in everyday practice. This article examines how families use play as a tool to support young children's emotion regulation in everyday family life. Two middle-class Australian families with children aged three years were studied over a six-month period (n = 30.75 hours of video observations and interviews). Findings show how manipulative play was used by parents during every day routines to mediate children's emotions. Parents and children interact together to create an emotional zone of proximal development (ZPD) through play, suggesting that the development of emotion regulation is not an individual practice as identified in the literature, but collectively constructed. This study opens a new angle for understanding for a dialectical relation between manipulative play and children's emotional development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-319
Number of pages15
JournalEuropean Early Childhood Education Research Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2016


  • cultural-historical
  • emotion regulation
  • everyday family life
  • play
  • young children

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