Press Release

American Journal of Play Publishes Special Issue

Published February 21, 2024

ROCHESTER, NY—Make-believe continues to disappear from childhood culture, society puts increasing emphasis on children to learn “21st-century skills,” and education systems champion “school readiness” from an early age. With these potentially harmful trends, the work of the late psychologist Lev. S Vygotsky (1896 to 1934) on play may be more crucial and relevant to consider than ever before. In a special themed issue marking the 90th anniversary of Vygotsky’s seminal lecture on play, the American Journal of Play takes a deep dive into the importance of play and make-believe in childhood development.

Elena Bodrova and Deborah J. Leong, guest editors, begin the issue with an interview where they cite the possible link between the disappearance of make-believe and independent activity to the dramatic rise in mental health problems among children and young adults. They urge readers and educators to reconsider the work of Vygotsky, who argued that make-believe isn’t just a time for kids “getting ready” to be adults, but that it has great, independent value in the arc of their development. Through this type of play, kids develop the “tools of the mind” and other high-level competencies. Vygotsky, the editors argue, would be disheartened by how many education systems “ignore the inherent value of play in early childhood.”

They write, “Promoting mature, make-believe play in early childhood classrooms may be a promising strategy to help children build their unconstrained skills.” Unconstrained skills aren’t directly teachable skills, but rather, things like self-regulating and problem-solving. These skills, they argue, might not show up on standardized tests, but they’re crucial to child development.

The full interview and complete issue of the American Journal of Play can be read freely online. Additional articles include:

  • “Can Private Speech and Sociodramatic Play Promote Perspective Taking and Reduce Egocentrism: A Post-Vygotskian Reply to Piaget,” by Jeremy E. Sawyer.
  • “Vygotskian Analysis of Fake Play in Preschools: What Is It and How to Distinguish It from Real Play,” by Elena Yudina.
  • “Are We Play-Proofing Preschools, Kindergartens, and Schools? Conceptual PlayWorlds as the Source of Children’s Development of Imagination and Learning,” by Marilyn Fleer.
  • “A Vygotskian Framework for Observing and Teaching Bilingual and English-Only Players,” by Lynn Cohen.

About the American Journal of Play
The American Journal of Play is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary publication that serves as a forum for discussing the history, science, and culture of play. Published three times each year by The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York, the Journal includes articles, interviews, and book reviews written for a broad readership that includes educators, psychologists, play therapists, sociologists, anthropologists, folklorists, historians, museum professionals, toy and game designers, policy makers, and others who consider play for a variety of reasons and from various perspectives.