A Case for Symbolic Play: An Important Foundation for Literacy Development


  • Sandra J. Stone Northern Arizona University
  • Kathleen G. Burriss Middle Tennessee State University


This article presents a case for symbolic play and its role in literacy development in the early years. First, symbolic play is examined as one of the most significant cognitive developments for young children. Next, the role of symbolic play is presented as a natural and necessary precursor to emerging literacy. Examples are provided to illustrate how children practice representing objects and events symbolically through play. Then, the role of symbolic play is examined in the development of language, drawing, writing and reading. Finally, examples are given for ways early childhood educators can provide rich play environments for young children that support symbolic play opportunities. The case for symbolic play should lead educators to see the value of play, and the integral importance of symbolic play, as a necessary precursor to language and literacy development for all children.