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What is dramatic play? And its benefits
You smile as your three-year-old darts past you on a made up horse, declaring she is a warrior from a story that she recently saw or heard. Her siblings trail behind, each wearing an array of dress-up clothes and a sword in one hand.
Your child’s adventures may just seem like some simple afternoon of fun, but they are engaging in a positive learning experience called dramatic play or pretend play.
1. Dramatic play teaches self-regulation
Toddlers and preschoolers are known for acting impulsively, but dramatic play is a positive steppingstone toward self-regulation. I notice my daughters taking turns when they indulge in pretend play. They wait for the other to complete what needs to be said and then respond. I watch in awe when they do this!
2. Dramatic play gives children an emotional outlet
Dramatic play allows kids to act out scenarios they have seen or heard in real life, giving them an important emotional outlet, young children do not yet think internally. A great example is when you see them pretending to be on the phone or laptop, talking or typing like you. Watch them carefully next time and you would notice what they observe during the day and enact during play. This is where I take my cues to be more conscious in my dealing with others.
3. Dramatic play teaches conflict resolution
Both unstructured and structured dramatic play offer teachable moments of conflict resolution. Disagreements between children will crop up naturally during unstructured dramatic play, which offers a chance for kids to work through their differences and arrange a compromise. I strongly believe that a parent does not have to be a referee, they can choose to be a coach. Let the children resolve on their own (yes, of course until and unless they get into something serious).
4. Dramatic play supports literacy
Dramatic play can also increase literacy and reading comprehension. My daughters often choose to act out scenes from a favourite storybook like Gruffalo or Bedtime stories for rebel girls. This gives them a deeper understanding of the narrative structure and character motivations found in familiar stories.
5. Dramatic play allows you to support your kids and encourage their ideas
Like I said above, kids process their inner thoughts and emotions externally through dramatic play. That means you can learn a lot about what makes your kids happy, scared or frustrated just through observing their pretend play.
The next time you see your kids acting as car racer, chef, or a princess on a horse with a wand pay attention. This is your chance to foster ideas by asking open-ended questions.