Learning Through Play Series: Dramatic Play

Posted on Feb 19, 2016 | 0 comments

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Dramatic play comes very easily for most children. And while at times we may put the emphasis on the “drama,” fantasy and pretending are amazing ways for our toddlers and preschoolers to develop skills in many areas: social emotional, language, critical thinking, imagination, problem solving, and self-expression.
At Kids’ Co-op, each of our classrooms is set up with age appropriate dramatic play areas. These areas may include dress-up clothes (dresses and role-play costumes), capes, shoes, jewelry, accessories, kitchens, animal care, writing desk, phones, houses, and baby care. Children are welcome to use these areas in whatever suits their fancy that day and many will stay in a dress or outfit for much of the morning free play. While some children may not need lots of accessories to kick start their imaginations for role-playing and pretending, for others it helps them to give their brains that little push into another world or place. Children need time to explore their make-believe worlds and they use their free-play time in the morning to do just that.

What ways can a dramatic play center or activities help your child’s brain?
Through taking on a variety of roles in different play themes, children learn:

  • to be flexible in their thinking.
  • to use language skills.
  • to verbalize ideas and concepts.
  • to experiment with different adult roles.
  • to work through worries in a safe context.
  • to sort and organize things.
  • to make decisions.
  • to negotiate and compromise.
  • to improve and use things in a symbolic way to represent something else.
  • to carry out ideas with the cooperation of others.

In order to nurture pretend play at home, remember that they do need time to explore a place or scenario, so it may be necessary to leave something your child has devised up for a few days. If you want to have some materials on hand at home for your child to explore with their imaginations, fill boxes/bags/crates with various items with a similar theme that can be easily stored away when not in use. Just put a few items in and let your child fill in the blanks- they’ll transform other items in your home into things they need to complete a scene! You can also facilitate by incorporating a story they are fond of or asking them to complete a scenario you present, using a “what do you think?” approach. Thrift store or garage sales are great places to obtain items like old phones, dress up clothes (get them several sizes too big!), kitchen items, shoes, old sheets, etc. Large colored scarves or “play silks” can become anything from a princess dress to a cape to a river! By no means should you need to go buy every Elsa, Spiderman, Cinderella, or Batman costume for them to assume this role at home.

Here are some of our students using dramatic play in their mornings at the Co-op:

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One of the benefits of a cooperative is that we get to witness all of this when we work in the classroom! What dramatic play do (did) you enjoy watching the children do at the Co-op? We’d love to read your comments.

To explore more on this subject, check out these articles:

The Importance of Pretend Play in Child Development

The Importance of Pretend Play

How Dramatic Play Can Enhance Learning

The Need for Pretend Play in Child Development

What Is Dramatic Play and How Does It Support Literacy Development in Preschool?