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Organized Make-Believe Play

Over the past decade there has been a raging debate in the early childhood field between those who favor accelerated academic instruction and those who favor free play for three, four, and five year olds.

The New York Times Magazine (September 27, 2009) joined in on this debate with an article, “The Make-Believe Solution,” which described a curriculum of organized make-believe play called “Tools of the Mind.” This curriculum is said to be based on these concepts proposed by Lev Vigotsky in the first quarter of the 20th century:

• At 4 or 5, a child’s ability to play creatively with other children is a better indicator of her future academic success than any other indicator, including her vocabulary, her counting skills, or her knowledge of the alphabet.

• Dramatic play is the training ground where children learn to regulate themselves, to conquer their own unruly minds.

• In dramatic play children are guided by the basic principles of play. Make-believe isn’t as stimulating and satisfying if players don’t stick to their roles. When children follow the rules of make-believe and push one another to follow those rules, they develop important habits of self control.

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