Role play is an important part of any healthy childhood. Kids who have free reign to pretend they're teachers, or chefs, or pop stars learn all sorts of valuable skills. This is why most preschool classrooms include role-playing toys such as wooden play kitchens, doll baby strollers, tool benches, or boxes of dress-up clothes. You might be surprised to learn how many life skills your son is daughter picks up during role play:
Learning to get along with others is a necessary skill to have. Whether your child will attend public, private, or home school, they'll still need to learn how to coexist with other people their own age. Role play is a wonderful tool for prompting socialization. When kids get together to play house, for instance, they're doing more than just killing 30 minutes of time, they're also assigning roles, setting their own boundaries and learning how to respond appropriately to those set by others, expanding their language skills and vocabulary, learning how to work cooperatively with others, and gaining confidence and self-esteem as they overcome problems.
Learning how to fit all the pots and pans back into the play oven when recess is over is a skill. Assigning playmates specific roles to enact qualifies as a skill as well. Any time your child delegates a classmate to be the mom, dad, or sister, he or she is learning how to organize units into recognizable sets. These skills will help them succeed in math and science. It will also help them realize how to maintain a clean room.
If you want to encourage role play among your youngsters, there are numerous things you can do:
- Give them free time. When every moment of every day is filled with lessons or activities, there's no time for individual expression. Give your child time to be a child.
- Give them supplies. Role play often occurs spontaneously, and having a room filled with role-playing toys such as play food, dishes, aprons, toy hammers and saws, goggles, and work gloves is a great way to encourage it.
- Play with them. Give your little girl a thrill by letting her "cook" you a meal. Or help your little boy set the table for dinner. Set up a store made from an old appliance box and canned goods from the cupboard, and let them sell you their wares.
Taking the time to play with your early learners teaches them valuable skills. So does stepping back and letting them take the wheel. Role play is vital to learning, it's fun, and it will benefit your child for years to come. If you don't have a good supply of role-playing toys on hand, now is the time to invest.