‘Now it was meal’

Use of tense work as an important social organizational device in preschoolers’ pretend play


  • Polly Björk-Willén Linköping University




preschool children, pretend play, legal/illegal play, tense use, social interaction


The overall aim of the present paper is to analyse and explore what frames a pretend play event as legal and recognizable to the participants, highlighting the children’s use of tense as an organizational device. The present video data are drawn from a single case study of two preschoolers’ interaction during a free play time event in a Swedish preschool. Influenced by ethnomethodological work on social actions, the analytical focus is on the participants’ methods of accomplishing and making sense of social activities. The use of tense proved to be the strongest contextualization cue to accomplish the switches between the ‘make believe’ and ‘the real’ domains, which demonstrated and organized what can and cannot be done in the pretend play scenario.

Author Biography

Polly Björk-Willén, Linköping University

Polly Björk-Willén, associate professor emerita, was assistant professor at Linköping University, and (part-time) at Uppsala University, Sweden. Her research interest is in interactional studies in preschool, investigating mundane activities with special focus on children’s (multi)language use and socialization. Other areas of interest are ethnicity, cultural heritage, language policy and children’s computer use. Based on ethnomethodology and multimodality, her analyses of nonverbal and verbal interaction strive to understand children’s perspective when making meaning.


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How to Cite

Björk-Willén, P. (2021). ‘Now it was meal’: Use of tense work as an important social organizational device in preschoolers’ pretend play. Research on Children and Social Interaction, 5(2), 131–150. https://doi.org/10.1558/rcsi.19603