Have you ever seen a child pick up a straw and use it as a toothbrush? Or place a shoe to her ear to pretend it’s a cell phone? These are instances of symbolic play—the ability to use objects, ideas, or actions in a representative manner. Children develop symbolic play in different stages starting from about 8 months old. Having dramatic play equipment accessible to young students in classrooms has been shown to improve cognitive, social, and emotional skills.
Read on to learn the benefits of dramatic play and get some ideas for activities to try with your child.
Dressing up and pretending to be someone else allows a child to develop empathy and self confidence in various situations. They will be able to understand a situation from a different perspective, as they view themselves in these powerful roles for short times. It also allows them to learn how to communicate in various situations before they actually have to face them.
Try This: Have your child dress up as a doctor or nurse and play out various scenarios. This will help them develop the communication skills to interact in real-life situations where these roles may be present, such as a doctor’s visit!
Make-Believe/ Role Playing
Dramatic play can allow kids to safely explore various situations and learn to interact. Play kitchens allow children to role play as a chef and reenact what they see going on around them. They may pretend to microwave a meal just like mommy or cook up a soup like daddy does. This role playing allows them to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, developing empathy and social skills.
Try This: Allow your child to use their play kitchen while you’re in the kitchen cooking a meal. You’ll find that your child will mimic many of your actions. This is a great way for them to learn various kitchen terms and about different kinds of food while stretching their imagination.
Dramatic play is a wonderful way for children to interact with one another. Whether they’re dressing up or just using everyday objects to pretend they are princes or princesses, children can learn positive social skills when acting out imaginary scenarios together.
Try This: Have children put together a puppet show and perform it for you. This will allow them to work together and learn patience as the other speaks using their puppet. It will also stretch their creativity, as they need to make up new material for their audience.
If you’ve ever watched a child engaged in dramatic play, you’ve heard the way they reason and speak out loud as if no one else is around. Self-directed talk, known as private speech and self talk, is linked to early learning success and development. Self-talk leads to thinking routines that help build strong connections and enhance learning.
Try this: Have your child go through their play kitchen set, explaining what they are doing while they “cook a meal” or “put away their groceries.” Try not to interject too often, but instead ask open-ended questions that allow them to explain their actions.
Dramatic play has so many benefits, and it is important to provide your child with environments that encourage it. Check out all of ECR4Kids’ offerings for dramatic play.