Pretend play has been extensively studied in developmental science, nevertheless important questions remain about how children engage in and navigate between pretend episodes. In this proposal, we scrutinize childhood pretense from a social cognitive developmental point of view. First, we review previous theories of pretend play structured around important questions that pinpoint some attributes of pretend episodes, such as their transient and socially defined nature. In these sections, evidence is also reviewed about children’s understanding of these attributes. Following this, we describe a novel proposal of pretend play which extends recent accounts of (pretend) play (Wyman & Rakoczy, 2011; Chu & Schulz, 2020a) by exploiting the importance of social interactions in pretense. We contend that engaging in shared pretending can be considered a manifestation of and support for children’s ability to participate in and set up arbitrary contextual boundaries with others. These claims are discussed with regards to how pretend play may figure into social development, its potential implications for intra- as well as intercultural variation, as well as future research.

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Competing Interests: The authors declare no conflict of interests.

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