With all of today’s technology, many preschoolers are missing out on all the fun we had as children, with dress-up and make believe. Remember playing House? Remember playing School? Remember building a Fort and playing Army? Remember playing Cowboys? Television, computers and video games are fine in moderation, but preschoolers need to move around, use their imagination and make their own fun.
Play is a valuable learning tool for children. Dramatic play is pretend play. Pretending expands a child’s life experiences by letting him/her be whomever he/she desires. The child can try on different roles when he/she pretends. A mommy, a daddy, a soldier, a cowboy, a lion, a tiger, a witch, a princess…it doesn’t matter. Through pretending children can investigate and understand the world around them.
Dramatic play or pretend play may be enjoyed by the child alone, or with other kids. When preschoolers pretend play together, their social skills are enhanced. Participating in dramatic play involves cooperation, negotiation; sharing, problem solving, impulse control and appreciation of one another’s efforts.
Dramatic play can also be regarded as preparation for life. Pretending allows children to represent real-life problems and practice solving them. They are able to question things and to learn about the world in ways that make sense to them. Pretend play will help children develop more creative problem solving skills as they grow older.
Pretend play is fun, but it’s also an important part of child development. There are four areas in which dramatic play enhances development: social/emotional, physical, cognitive, and language.
Children negotiate with their friends about what roles to play, and learn to work together. Children who engage in dramatic play are less aggressive than those that do not.
Dramatic play enhances physical development and eye-hand coordination as children try out different roles. Both fine and gross motor skills are engaged as well as eye-hand coordination.
Children use their cognitive skills in pretend play. They recreate past experiences, share ideas, and solve problems together. They practice their language skills to explain and express what they are doing. When acting out stories and songs, literacy skills are enhanced.
Parents and caretakers can promote dramatic play by providing props. Children will use the most basic objects for their dramatic play, but anything you can give them adds to their fun. The lists are endless…..dress-up clothes, puppets, stuffed animals, dolls, carriages and wagons, kitchen stuff, pots, pans, doll and kid size furniture, diaper bags, purses. Kid- size shopping carts, shopping bags, play food, dishes, tables and chairs, pretend stoves and appliances, are available all the time at yard sales and flea markets.
Some favorite figures for dramatic play are miniature Disney figures, animals. Fisher Price sets, people and animals. Other favorites are soldiers, cowboys, pirates and pirate ships .Many figures; action or even Barbies, can be picked up at yard sales.
Larger pretend props for dramatic play include castles, farms, forts, puppet theaters, puppets, and doll houses. Catch my personal story of the Big Yellow Dollhouse.
For parents able to purchase outdoor play equipment, there are wonderful play houses, and play environments that resemble pirate ships, castles, forts and tree houses. The selections are endless. If you cannot afford investing in an outdoor play environment, recycle. Kids love appliance boxes or any cardboard containers or cartons. You can cover the boxes with contact paper, or let the kids paint and decorate them with non toxic paint. You then will have an art project as well as a play structure.
Finally, there are classic story books and music recordings that invite preschoolers to act out and move around.
Some favorites are:
The Three Bears
Little Red Riding Hood
The Three Pigs
The Gingerbread Man
The Three Billy Goats Gruff
Peter and the Wolf
Store dramatic props neatly in storage bins or on shelves. Keep dress-up clothes in old chests, suitcases, or bureaus.. Keep read- aloud books nearby, and be ready to tell and retell each story many times. If invited to participate, join in the fun. You just might make a wonderful Troll!
Family Day Care Program …Personal experience as curriculum instructor
PTO Today…Dramatic Play
Child Development Media Blog…Dramatic Play