In Reception we love to play, and role playing is one of our favourite types of play. Whether it is pretending to be a family in the class home corner, building in a class construction site, being a doctor or nurse in a play hospital, or camping in a class campsite, we have a lot of fun whilst role playing and learn lots too. These are some of the things we learn while role playing:
- To be more imaginative and creative
By absorbing themselves in an imaginative game, children are given the opportunity to practice using their imagination, to exercise their brain and train it to think creatively, and to learn how to think for themselves. The ability to use our imagination is a cognitive skill that we all require throughout life, and we need to encourage children to learn how to do this from the start with frequent opportunities for imaginative play. Imagination is required to properly visualize and to be able to enjoy pleasures in life such as a good book or a film. It is an essential enabler for understanding other people’s perspectives and for thinking creatively.
- To increase social and emotional development
When a child engages in role play, by pretending to be different characters or by controlling objects in their own way and observing the result, they are essentially experimenting with the social and emotional roles of life. It’s about learning who they are as individuals and how they fit into the world around them, how the world works and how to walk in somebody else’s shoes. They develop empathy and learn how to co-operate, to become responsible and how to share responsibility. Role play also benefits children hugely in developing their self-esteem and self-awareness. There is a sense of freedom which flows from the realisation that you can be anything by just pretending, and children love this! It’s a safe and secure way to experiment and test boundaries, and build confidence.
- To improve language and communication skills
It is fascinating to listen to our children interacting with friends. They often come out with words or phrases that we had no idea they knew! They can do very amusing impersonations of their parents, carers and teachers too! Role play allows children to experiment with and learn about the power of language, how it affects us and those around us. It also helps them to understand that words give us the means to re-enact situations, to put our point across and to make ourselves heard and understood. Role play offers the perfect opportunity to expose children to new vocabulary, and the more different scenarios they are introduced to, the more scope there is for widening their vocabulary! They could spend a whole afternoon at the “airport” preparing them for a new experience, or a whole morning in a “hospital” learning all the different words associated with a potential visit. Not only does role play broaden their horizons in this way, but it helps to reduce anxiety as language and situations become more familiar.
- To develop thinking, learning and problem solving abilities
By its very nature, role play presents children with a variety of different problems to solve and scenarios to think about carefully. Deciding what games to play, what roles to take on, who will be involved and how, what materials are needed for the game and what rules apply to the game, and how to overcome scenarios where something “goes wrong”, all require much thought and deliberation in one way or another. Participating in role play in such a way requires a child to call upon cognitive thinking skills that they will find themselves using in each aspect of everyday life, and this will stay with them all the way through to adulthood.
- To enhance physical development
Aside from all the wonderful cognitive benefits that role play has to offer, it is important to remember that pretend play is very often physical and is a wonderful way for children to be active, to exercise and to develop their motor skills. Gross motor skills are put to good use as pilots run around flying their aeroplanes, fire fighters climb up ladders and whizz down slides throwing water everywhere, goodies run after baddies and chase them over play equipment, horses gallop across fields and over jumps and would-be Olympic athletes and gymnasts put their skills to the test in the school playground. Fine motor skills and hand to eye co-ordination are improved as children try to dress dolls with fiddly bits of clothing, dish out coins to pay for items they have bought in a shop, or make recipes with “ingredients” plucked fresh from the sandpit.
And as if all that isn’t enough, role playing is fun too!