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Association Of Children’s Symbolic Play in the Pretend and Block Centers of Preschool Classrooms with Inhibitory Control


Principal Investigators: Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, Julia DeLapp
Student Researchers: Meghan McAuliffe, Delaney Pike

The purpose of this study is to examine the relationships between symbolic play that occurs in two distinct classroom play spaces in preschool classrooms—the pretend play center and the block area—and measures of inhibitory control (IC). IC is a brain-related executive function that allows children to resist impulses or physical distractions. IC contributes to greater self-regulation of behavior, attention, and emotions and has been linked to academic achievement. Answers to the following research question will be pursued:

  1. To what degree does the frequency of children’s symbolic play—that which involves the make-believe transformation of actions, objects, or situations into imaginary ones—observed in the pretend play areas of a preschool classroom predict growth in IC over a six month period?
  2. To what degree does the frequency of such symbolic play in a play space with hardwood blocks predict growth in IC over the same period?
  3. To what degree does the frequency of symbolic play in pretend centers, compared to that in block areas, contribute variance to IC?

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