Playworlds and Executive Functions in Children: Theorising with the Cultural-Historical Analytical Lenses


This paper provides a theorisation of developmental conditions to support executive functions (working memory, inhibition and shifting) in children in playworlds settings, where children and teachers play together in collectively created imaginary situations. Vygotsky’s general law of development of psychological functions constitutes the general frame for the analysis of the process of development of executive functions (EF) in playworlds, and the theoretical concepts of drama, social situation of development and perezhivanie are used as analytical tools to examine opportunities of playworlds to support children executive functions.

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  1. 1.

    The concept of perezhivanie will be presented in the following section as a concept of analysis of the “intra-psychological” plane of development of EF in playworlds.

  2. 2.

    ‘Source’ here is not a metaphor, such as the source of a river from which the water flows naturally, but rather a well to take water from.

  3. 3.

    Vygotsky uses the word черпать (to scoop) in Russian original text, like scooping water from the well.

  4. 4.

    In the original Russian text the verb perezhival (переживал) is used. This is the past singular grammatical form of the verb perezhivat’ (переживать), from which the noun perezhivanie has been derived.

  5. 5.

    In the Russian original text «у троих детей возникло три разных переживания одной и той же ситуации» (three different perezhivanie of the same situation appeared in three children) (Vygotsky 2001, pp. 74–75).


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Fleer, M., Veresov, N. & Walker, S. Playworlds and Executive Functions in Children: Theorising with the Cultural-Historical Analytical Lenses. Integr. psych. behav. 54, 124–141 (2020) doi:10.1007/s12124-019-09495-2

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  • Executive functions
  • Cultural-historical theory
  • Playworlds
  • Drama
  • Social situation of development
  • Perezhivanie