Be dramatic
The many benefits of dramatic play
Dramatic play is something that young children have engaged in for many generations. But as children's lives become increasingly scheduled, dramatic play is something that can often become lost in the day-to-day rush. As a busy parent, dusting off your inner child to engage in let's pretend with your little ones can often be hard. But there is a myriad of benefits of dramatic play that will remain with a child throughout their lives.

What is dramatic play?

Dramatic play is when children create an environment, take on roles and then act them out in a pretend situation. Sometimes these roles might be real-world roles such as hairdressers or shopkeepers, other times they might be fantasy roles such as pirates or superheroes. Either way, this type of play is essential to the development process and it's something that young children need lots of opportunity to experience.

Why is it so important?

Dramatic play engages children in life - whether fantasy or real. By acting out these roles they begin to understand the world around them and develop critical life skills. Things children learn from dramatic play include:
  • Self-regulation. Dramatic play can be a great space for children to learn to regulate their emotions and actions, as they work through situations and obstacles.
  • Literacy and maths. By acting out situations such as taking orders or adding up bills, children are using literacy and maths concepts in 'real world' situations.
  • Language development. Dramatic play encourages the use of expressive language and introduces new vocabulary.
  • Communication skills. As they are required to communicate their role and their opinions to their peers or parents, dramatic play can help to develop vital communication skills.
  • Conflict resolution. Whenever disagreements arise, dramatic play provides children with the supported environment to work through differences and reach a compromise.
  • Problem solving. The world which they create often has many obstacles to overcome as the play progresses, giving children the opportunity to solve problems and use their critical thinking to overcome these challenges.
  • Abstract thinking. To engage in dramatic play, children are recreating something they have imagined or seen, which requires abstract thinking.
  • Experimenting. Dramatic play gives children the space environment to experiment with situations and potential outcomes, testing out their decision-making in a safe environment.
  • Social skills. Playing together and creating a world with others, supports the development of social skills.
  • Empathy. By acting out different roles in different situations, children learn to understand things from another's point of view. This can be particularly effective when acting out a well-known story, such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears, where each time the child takes on a different role, experiencing the story from each character's viewpoint.
  • Physical. Dramatic play allows children to practise both fine and gross motor skills – whether they are a doctor operating on a teddy bear, or a 'bad guy' climbing a tree.

How to encourage dramatic play

There are several ways you can bring a little dramatic play into your own day-to-day.
  • Set up a stimulating space. This can be as simple as throwing a sheet over the dining table or putting a teepee in the garden. These blank scenes can quickly stimulate a child's curiosity and imagination until you are aliens in a spaceship or knights storming a castle.
  • Keep props and dress ups. A few simple props can do wonders for sparking dramatic play. Whether it's an old shirt than becomes a doctor's white coat or a broken watch that can initiate time travel, keeping a box of nick-nacks that a child can rummage through is a fabulous way to ignite that curiosity.
  • Have fun! Above all, don't take it too seriously! Get silly, let them take the lead, and enjoy the time and the freedom to be whatever you want, sharing the joy of make-believe for a moment with your child.
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