Pretend play is a fascinatingly complex behavior from which psychologists have drawn information on a wide range of children's functionings and developments. Piaget considered it as an important window through which to glimpse the incipient representational capacities of the child. Indeed, in pretend play, the abridged and schematized enactment of activities (or events) outside of their habitual context consists in the signifier, the trace evoking the real activities, the signified. The playful attitude, the abridged actions, enacted sometimes in an exaggerated manner, the inanimate co-participants, the miniature objects, the repetition of actions lacking material results, the simulation of physical sensations in the absence of relevant physical stimuli, the displacement of the activity relative to its habitual setting, etc., are all indices that have been taken, separately or in combination, by authors trying to define and/or identify early manifestations of pretend in very young children (e.g., Piaget, 1945/1962; Inhelder et al., 1972; Nicolich, 1977; McCune-Nicolich, 1981; Veneziano, 1981; Musatti, 1986; Lillard, 1993a).
More recently, pretend play has attracted researchers' attention for the potential developmental links it may have with components of “theory of mind.” Indeed, the representational aspect of pretend play implies children's ability to consider one object as simultaneously having the properties it has in “real” life and those that it has by virtue of the meaning transformation it has undergone in pretend. The ability to hold double representations about a single entity is also necessary for a theory of mind.