‘We set up a small world’: preschool teachers’ involvement in children’s imaginative play

Anamika Devi, Marilyn Fleer, Liang Li

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Grounded in Vygotsky’s cultural-historical theory, this paper examines how often teachers are involved in children’s imaginative play and discusses their beliefs about their role in supporting children’s imaginative play. To investigate this problem, video (65 hours of digital observations) and interview data (two hours and 30 minutes) of 60 children with 7 teachers from two preschools in Australia were analysed. Using Vygotsky’s [1966. “Play and Its Role in the Mental Development of the Child.” Voprosy Psikhologii 12 (6): 62–76] cultural-historical concept of play, and Kravtsov and Kravtsova’s [2010. “Play in the L.S. Vygotsky’s Nonclassical Psychology.” Journal of Russian and East European Psychology 48 (4): 25–41] conception of ‘subject positioning’ (being inside and outside of the play), it was found that despite the general importance of play, teachers’ involvement in developing children’s imaginative play appears to be minimal. The interviews showed that teachers’ beliefs about their role in children’s imaginative play are directly related to the distance of their physical proximity and understanding of the play narrative being enacted. This paper argues that focusing on teachers’ involvement in children’s play is an important but under-researched dimension of play-based pedagogies in early childhood education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-311
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Early Years Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2018


  • cultural-historical theory
  • Imaginative play
  • physical proximity
  • subject positioning

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