There is more to dramatic play than just playing make-believe. Check out why dramatic play is so important to your little one’s development.
What is Dramatic Play
When kids take on a new role and act out different scenes and situations it is called dramatic play. Through dramatic play, kids can learn new vocabulary, become creative with how items are used and experiment with different jobs and situations.
Types of Dramatic Play
Structured Dramatic Play
Structured dramatic play has scenarios picked out for your little learner. It takes the big task of “what to play” out of the equation. Your kids will figure out tools and solutions to solve the scenario given. For example, if you set up a store in your dramatic play area you are setting up a structured dramatic play. The benefit of this is that you can choose which situations your little ones are acting out. If you are going to the doctor later in the week you may want to set up a doctor dramatic play to talk about and role-play what may happen at the appointment.
Unstructured Dramatic Play
Just as it sounds, unstructured dramatic play allows your little learners to choose the situations and roles they want to play. Your little ones choose what they want to play without your input or you setting up items in the dramatic play area.
Dramatic Play Benefits
One of the biggest benefits of dramatic play is the language development that it encourages. When your littles are put in different situations than they are used to, they can use different vocabulary words. Not only does their vocabulary increase with the new situation, but so do the conversations that your littles are having. Your preschooler will figure out how to answer when someone says, “What would you like to eat?” because she has played this before at home while playing restaurant.
Dramatic play themes can incorporate written words with pictures next to them. If your little one is looking at a menu for a restaurant dramatic play theme, she will see different food choices with the words and the pictures. This helps your preschooler to connect the word ‘apple’ to the picture of an apple. Although it seems subtle, your little learner will pick up that the word must be apple.
While playing dramatically, kids are making up a story as they go. This boosts their creative thinking and storytelling ability. By going along with their ideas, you are helping your kids to believe in themselves which in turn helps them gain confidence.
Emotions and different situations can be acted out during dramatic play in a way that children feel safe. If the person your preschooler is pretending to be shares her toy, and you encourage that, then she realizes that it is a behavior that you like. On the other hand, if your preschooler says something mean during dramatic play, you can use the person you are pretending to be to express how it made you feel. These seemingly small interactions are transferred over to real life.
Examples of Play Areas
A baking dramatic play area could include cookie sheets, muffin tins, mixing bowls, whisks, spatulas, and other things that children could use to pretend to bake. After their baked goods are cooked in play ovens, perhaps they want to see them to their friends or host a tea party. Pretend donuts are delicious!
A post office dramatic play area could have a mail-carrying bag, envelopes, stamps, paper, a place for people to mail letters, and a place for children to sort mail. Children could create mail to send to someone special and then put it in an envelope with a stamp (stickers work great!) on it. Once ready, your child could put the mail into the play mailbox. Someone could then retrieve the mail and deliver it to the correct person.
Firefighter dramatic play could include a red coat and pants, a fire hat, and a hose. Use tissue paper to make fires and children could come put the fires out. Boxes work great as vehicles like fire trucks!
An easy way to get started with a dramatic play area is to print out some hats that go along with your theme. We have some printable community helper hats for you here.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to dramatic play. Allowing your little learner to participate in dramatic play helps your little one to develop in many different ways.