Role-play is one of the most natural activities a preschooler can participate in, and is an important way for them to learn about the world.
As a parent, you may have observed your child pretending to make dinner, have an argument with a friend, work in an office or look after a baby.
Role-play enables children to develop many important life skills, by giving them an opportunity to rehearse real-life situations in a safe, low threat environment.
Children often encounter confusing or difficult situations at home or in school. Role-play enables children to recreate in their own way the things they’ve experienced in order to understand them better.
If they have an opportunity to role-play a situation before it happens, they may be better prepared to respond when they face the real-life situation. If children have already faced such a problem, role-playing may give them ideas for alternative ways to handle it if it happens again.
Young children act out real or imagined situations not just as themselves, but also as other people or characters.
When preschoolers pretend to be another person or character – such as friends, family members, characters in story books or super-heroes – they are experimenting with alternative viewpoints on the world which help them develop key emotional and social skills.
As parents, we can encourage and help our children participate in role-play in two important ways:
- Firstly, we can allow children the time, space and resources – such as old clothes for costumes – to facilitate play.
- Secondly, we can participate in role-plays with our children and help guide them towards positive solutions to social and emotional problems. By sharing the role-play, we are allowing the child to discover and own insights, which they may not absorb from a lecture or a list of dos and don’ts.
Some Benefits of Parents Role-Playing with Children
When parents role-play with their children they have the opportunity to model positive behaviours. Through the character or other person, children can observe how their parent might deal with a particular problem.
This also provides parents with an opportunity to demonstrate their values, such as kindness, sharing and respect, which can be expressed through each character they play.
Any time a parent is ‘playing’ with a child, it is a bonding experience that increases the attachment between them.
This in turn increases a child’s sense of Safety, Belonging and Self Esteem – the key foundations of healthy emotional growth according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Not sure on how to get started with role-playing with children? Check out some tips on the next page…