Young children learn through play. They take in what they see, hear and experience from the world around them and use their learning skills to try to make sense it all. Role play is an important part of early childhood development because it helps children learn, explore and develop their feelings in a safe and fun way. There are so many benefits of imaginative role play, and so many role play ideas you can try with your kids.
The Importance of Children’s Role Play in Early Years
There are so many benefits to children’s role play. Role play helps children learn by allowing them to experiment with activities and ideas and rehearse these before they become real. Playing superheroes, pushing a baby in a stroller, wrapping up a teddy bear in a blanket or even answering a pretend phone call are all ways that children explore role play.
Role play encourages children’s imagination, helps them develop problem-solving skills and lets them try out different identities and figure out who they want to be. It also synthesizes learning by incorporating social skills, activities, motor skills and communication strategies – all while being incredibly fun.
Children should be able to take the lead with role play activities. They may love it if a parent plays along, but let them be the one leading the game and in charge of how it goes. It could even be a fun switch to encourage them to be the boss or person in authority and tell you what to do just to see how it feels.
Should Parents Be Concerned if Imaginative Play Seems Violent?
Sometimes parents may be concerned about behavior they see in their child during role play activities. Remember, this is a time for children to explore and try out new ideas and feelings. Playing with big feelings and emotions helps them practice and imagine problems before they encounter them for real and may be a way for your children to process emotions and ideas they are dealing with.
It is very common for children to include seemingly violent behavior in role play, but as long as no one is getting hurt, it is best to allow them to play and not intervene. If there is any danger of someone being hurt, you should stop the activity but try to stay as neutral as possible. Children learn quickly what kind of behavior gets a strong reaction from a parent so asking them to stop aggressive or seemingly manipulative behavior could result in them repeating that behavior to get a reaction from their parent.
It is also common for children to role play what they observe, so if you are notice things that are concerning, it could be a good chance to pay attention to where they may be observing these kinds of behavior. It could also be an opportunity to observe your kids while they process an experience. Ask questions about the behavior or talk about it afterwards; role playing might give them the words they need to share with you.
Creative Role Play Ideas For Kids
The best children’s role play ideas will come from the children, so let them take the lead. Sometimes providing inspiring supplies can spark an idea. Here’s a few of our favorite ways to encourage role play.
- Hand them a cardboard box.
Have a large cardboard box from a recent appliance? Let your kids go nuts with some markers and tape and see what they come up with. It could be a rocket ship, a secret fort or the entrance to a magical cave.
- Create an Ice Cream Parlour.
Get your kids to set up an ice cream shop and take orders from customers for their favorite pretend treats. If there are no extra customers around they can use some favourite stuffies as customers. This also works as a pretend restaurant or store.
- Let them be the teacher.
Let your kids pretend to be teachers and teach the class what they need to know. They’ll enjoy sharing what they’ve learned and pretending to be in charge. The class could be you or other stuffie students.
- Pretend to be pirates.
Make a treasure map and send your kids on a pirate adventure. They can follow clues or make up their own hidden treasure spot.
- Dress Up.
Giving kids a dress up box full of old clothes or costumes can be an invitation to their imagination. It doesn’t have to be fancy, even old clothes from your closet or from the thrift store can give lots of options. See what characters they can create with what they find.
- Make a monster mash.
Sometimes letting your child make-believe they are a scary monster can help themrelease pent up energy and aggression in a safe way that doesn’t hurt other people. Roaring and stomping or pretending to scare other people can also help kids process scary feelings.
Imaginary role play helps children with their social and cognitive development and is incredibly valuable for learning and problem solving. It is also invaluable as a way for kids to process their feelings and emotions about things they may not be able to talk about. And it provides hours of fun for kids, using only what you have at home.
At Vivvi, we help kids learn about the world around them through child-centered activities that encourage their curiosity and support play and exploration. For more information on our learning model check out our childcare options or schedule a virtual tour of our facilities today.