Role-playing an essential part of children's learning
There are many ways in which children learn in their daily lives but one of the most important is through pretend play — also known as socio-dramatic play.
When children express themselves through pretend play, they use language and storytelling skills to create a shared pretend scenario. Multiple themes merge and new ideas, players, toys, and materials are incorporated into the play without interrupting its flow.
Children coordinate and integrate many roles, often switching roles to extend the play. Children stay engaged in the play for extended periods of time and develop the play narrative over several days.
Pretend play is important because it builds strong oral communication skills, negotiation skills, confidence, and the ability to make friends, be persistent, and be creative in completing tasks and solving problems.
This type of play also promotes excitement and awareness about learning, helps expand children’s understanding that others have beliefs, desires, and intentions that are different from their own. This style of play also contributes to early literacy.
There are many ways in which parents can help their children learn through play.
- Try asking your child to help with the weekly shopping list. They can come up with ideas for dinner and lunch and you can guide them by suggesting foods that would be needed to create the dish. Talk about what the different fruit and vegetables are and encourage children to write up their own shopping list for their toys.
- Encourage your child to create their own shopping centre, featuring items they have bought with you on shopping trips.
- Create a menu for dinner by discussing with your child what they would like to see on their plates for dinner. Ask the child to describe the food in their own way and create a name for the dish. They can then invent their own restaurant, and create their own food.
- Buy some big sheets of coloured paper and encourage your child to create a sign for their restaurant or shopping centre. These signs could just use pictures or a combination of words and illustrations.
- Introduce pretend play with your child’s favourite doll or toy animal and include it in conversations and your play. Other activities can include talking on play phones, feeding the dolls or having a tea party.
- Make sure you have props so your child can act out the stories – dress-ups, cardboard boxes, blankets and play food will all help.
By using these methods to teach children, learning can become a fun, interactive experience, rather than in a formal situation.