‘Like me’. Mimesis and dramaturgic play in early childhood

Giulia Emma Innocenti Malini, Francesca Gentile

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mimesis is an innate feature of the human being. It shows itself immediately after birth and constitutes a very early form of learning, substantiating interpersonal relationships and empathy, and facilitating, together with many practical and operative notions, self-awareness through mirroring oneself in the significant other. The mimetic dimension evolves into fictional and symbolic ludic forms, which we have called dramaturgic, and which constitute a socio-relational and cultural resource crucial to infants’ development. These findings, backed up by numerous studies, prove the need for a new attention to subjectivity in the education of pre-school children. From an operational point of view, these considerations offer countless cues for drawing new hypotheses on the pedagogical function of using theatrical practices to sustain the evolution of young children individually and in groups. More in detail, the paper establishes, using field research conducted within the “Toddler” Section of a Nursery, the hypothesis that direct theatrical practice, following precise methodical guidelines, accompanies and fosters the natural evolution of mimetic dynamics into dramaturgic play. It does so by developing the children’s ability to creatively re-elaborate their experiences through the co-construction of imaginary worlds and their bodily and kinetic experiences. Direct theatrical practice also facilitates the growth of abstract thinking, and nurtures pro-social and cooperative behaviours.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-260
Number of pages12
JournalComunicazioni Sociali
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Early childhood, toddler-hood, mimesis, dramaturgic play, relationship, social theatre workshop


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