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Mother and toddler activity in the zone of proximal development for pretend play as a predictor of higher child IQ

journal contribution
posted on 2009-04-01, 00:00 authored by Anne-Marie MorrisseyAnne-Marie Morrissey, M Brown
This study investigated the pretend play of mother—toddler dyads in relation to later child IQ. Twenty-one toddlers were videotaped in monthly play sessions with their mothers, from age 8 to 17 months, and later assessed at 5 years of age on the Stanford-Binet IV. Children's and mothers' pretend play levels and frequencies were measured using Brown's (1997) Pretend Play Observation Scale. Dyadic play activity was analyzed using the conceptual frameworks of scaffolding and Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). Toddlers later assessed as having higher IQ demonstrated more rapid learning in the ZPD for pretend play and experienced earlier maternal transfer of responsibility for play. These findings support other evidence on the differential early development of high ability or gifted children and the role of caregiver interactions in that development.

Putting the Research to Use: This study provides evidence that gifted children show differential development, in this case more rapid learning, from the first year of life. It also demonstrates how responsive parental interactions can support this advanced development. For family and professional caregivers, the findings imply that optimum caregiving for the young gifted child involves interactions that are both responsive to individual potential and appropriately challenging. In regard to the methodological challenges of researching early giftedness, the study demonstrated that the constructs of the ZPD and scaffolding were useful frameworks for investigating early gifted development and caregiver influences on that development. Pretend play activity was also shown to be an effective measure and a useful context for the study of gifted development in infants and toddlers. It would be valuable for future researchers in this area to utilize similar approaches that are grounded in the unique developmental characteristics of young children, and that aim to account for the interactive contexts that are so important in children's lives. The field of gifted education, in general, would also benefit from an increased awareness and exploration of the role of play in the development of intellect, imagination and creativity.



Gifted child quarterly






106 - 120


Sage Publication


New York, N.Y.





Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2009, National Association for Gifted Children