When young children are playing, it’s very common to see (and hear) them conjuring up different scenarios and pretending to be a character other than themselves. But while it may look like they’re simply having fun, there’s a really serious side to role play.
Role play (also sometimes referred to as pretend, dramatic or imaginative play) is an essential and valuable contributor to a child’s healthy development. Through role play, children start to make sense of their world and they develop important skills which will set them up for future learning, personal growth, social connection and engagement.
It’s a type of play which can take place anywhere, anytime. It doesn’t require any special equipment or props, so young children can immerse themselves in imaginative roles at home, on a playdate with others, in early learning environments, in a doctor’s waiting room, at the shops - literally anywhere.
That said, with pretend play fulfilling such a vital role in a child’s development, the adults in their lives have an important role of their own in encouraging, inspiring and supporting this type of play. Role play should even be a factor in your decision-making about your choice of childcare or early education provider.
Benefits of role play
Childhood experts, researchers and educators all acknowledge that that role play aids child development and that it offers the following benefits:
- Helps children make sense of real-life situations
- Encourages a child’s creativity and stimulates their imagination
- Develops cognitive skills
- Helps build problem-solving and critical thinking abilities
- Develops communication, speech and language skills
- Develops social skills
- Builds emotional skills like self-confidence and self-awareness
- Helps build cultural awareness, empathy, respect and tolerance for others
Why a play-based early learning environment can benefit a child’s development
According to the LEGO Foundation, evidence keeps mounting that play is the best way for children to learn – and thrive. The science speaks for itself. Play builds brains and learning through play can help all children develop the breadth of skills they will need throughout their lives.
A play-based environment at childcare and at early school can provide your child with a strong foundation for their future success in life. Have a read of this article on why quality childcare is essential for a child’s healthy development and discover more about how play-based learning, where imaginative play is embraced and encouraged, benefits children in all the ways listed above - plus more.
Let’s look at some of the benefits of role play in more detail.
Role play evokes a child’s creative spirit
Using our imaginations is a key cognitive skill. It’s one we use throughout our daily lives to find solutions, solve problems, lift our moods etc. Young children need to be given the time and space to initiate and participate in imaginative play where they have the opportunity to be creative and develop their cognitive flexibility.
Role play improves a child’s language, speech and communication skills
Don’t you just love observing children acting out various make-believe play situations? And while we may think it’s all just good fun, it’s actually serious business. Getting into character, experimenting with different roles and scenarios, acting out fantasy and real-life situations all present opportunities for young children to express themselves freely, communicate with others and practise their verbal language, vocabulary and listening skills.
They get to see how words and actions affect others and they start to learn the power of effective communication. This type of play also provides opportunities for learning about teamwork and problem-solving as they explore new concepts, ideas and scenarios.
Role play supports a child’s social and emotional development
Young children use role play to better understand the world around them.
They experiment with different characters and through their interactions with other children, they expand their life experiences, practise social skills such as teamwork, sharing and taking turns and they expand their way of thinking.
Role play also offers young children with an emotional outlet and early school is a safe and supportive space where they’re comfortable expressing and addressing how they feel. This can help them start to learn the importance of emotional regulation and that their behaviour has an impact on others.
Also, when creative role play is led by the child (in other words, the children take charge of organising different roles, discussing ideas, deciding on the direction of the play, working things out with other children etc), they feel seen and heard. When children have the freedom to express and act out their own ideas, it can strengthen their confidence and build self-awareness. Don’t miss this article on how to help your child build self-confidence before starting early school.
Child-led play-based exploration and discovery
Our Evoke Early Learning centres are inspired by the progressive Reggio Emilia approach which centres on the implicit belief that each and every child is born curious, creative and capable and which has child-directed learning at its core.
Imaginative play is integral to our daily curriculum at our two Evoke Early Learning childcare centres in Clayton and Albert Park as we know from experience (and from the science) just how crucial this type of play is to a child’s healthy development.
Our spaces and the resources at our centres are all carefully designed to stimulate our children’s imaginations and encourage freedom of expression. Our skilled educators are also there to support and nurture the little ones as they discover the world and develop cognitive, personal and physical skills. If you’re interested in finding out more about our play-based child care centres, we warmly invite you to book a tour, contact us or have a browse through our informative news section on our website. We look forward to seeing you!