Using longitudinal data from five Irish American families in the United States and nine Chinese families in Taiwan, in conjunction with an emerging body of evidence in the cultural psychology literature, we propose universal, culturally variable, and developmental dimensions of young children's pretend play. Possible universal dimensions include the use of objects, and the predominantly social nature of pretend play. Developmental dimensions include increases in the proportion of social pretend play initiated by the child, the proportion of partner initiations elaborated upon by the child, and caregivers' use of pretend play initiations to serve other, nonplay social functions. Culturally variable dimensions include the centraliry of objects, the participation of specific play partners, the extent of child initiations of social pretend play with caregivers, the various functions of social pretend play in interaction, and specific themes. These findings raise the theoretical issue of how universal and variable dimensions of pretend play interact in specific communities to create distinctive development pathways.