Dramatic play has so many benefits and is often left out of early childhood classrooms as more and more academic activities get pushed in. But why is dramatic play important? I’ll share five important benefits to dramatic play and some easy ways to include dramatic play in your classroom (for ideas at home, check out this blog post!).
Why is dramatic play important: Children get to “try on” different roles and situations
Children learn best by doing and playing is the best way for them to experience different roles and situations. Children often process the social world they live in by acting out common situations in their play. Why else do you think they play “family” so often?! As children learn about more jobs and roles in society they add more situations to their play repertoire.
Through their play they can act out situations they might have seen before that they need to process, like an injury and going to the doctor, or a fight with the family. They also might act out situations that they are worried about but that haven’t happened, like a storm breaking the house. Acting out the situations and trying on the different roles of the family members or the jobs helps them to understand the situation better as well as feel more equipped to handle the situation if it happens in their real world.
Why is dramatic play important: language development
Children develop strong language skills while acting out imaginary play. They use vocabulary for the play set-up and the pretend situations. They have to plan out loud with their friends what they problem will be for their play and who is assigned what role. I love to have labels and word walls in my different play set-ups. This encourages the specific vocabulary of the play situation. Children use the vocabulary during their scripts as they act out the different situations, and the more they use the vocabulary, the better they learn it.
Critical thinking and problem solving skills:
When children invite an imaginary play world and work with peers on how to navigate that world, they have to do some serious negotiating and problem solving with their peers who might have different ideas than them. Children also have to work through problems with their peers as they come up in their play. They make up the imaginary problems and then work out the imaginary solutions to the problems, all the while negotiating with their peers.
Incorporating literacy and math:
Play is a fantastic way to integrate subject areas and this is especially true for dramatic play. It is easy in dramatic play to add in counting, measuring, adding, money, etc., especially if the set up has to do with cooking or selling items. You can also add in time if you have a school schedule or train schedule or the time that the store opens. I love making menus for the different restaurants and stores. This way children can start seeing different money symbols as well as experimenting with paying for things and giving change.
Literacy is also easily integrated because all you need to include is a blank notebook and the children take it from there! They are always writing lists or taking orders or making tickets. You can also provide lists or menus or tickets so the children are inspired to write while playing. But, this isn’t necessary. All they really need is blank paper! You can also include books related to the theme for some ideas for the children. As mentioned earlier, I also like to make sure to include word walls and labels for all the supplies to help use the play vocabulary.
Why dramatic play is important: Children can take ownership over their learning
Children need the opportunity to make choices and decisions and take ownership over their learning. In dramatic play children get to decide on what the play is and the roles are and the play situations. It’s also great when you can get the children involved in the changing of the dramatic play center. They can help come up with what new theme they want and what materials they will use.
Why is dramatic play important? The dramatic play center has numerous benefits for children from language development and problem-solving skills to literacy and math development. Dramatic play should be a staple in every classroom!
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