As a parent it is easy to underestimate the power of role play in connection with your child’s development but it can be one of the most accessible methods for all children to boost their social skills. Have you ever engaged with your child in imaginative role play? In this article we will discuss why role play is important for child development as well as the specific benefits role play can have on a child.
So why is role play important for child development? Role play helps to build vital skills that support a child’s development such as communication skills, creativity skills, and problem solving skills. These skills are developed through acting out real life scenarios that children have witnessed from their parents and peers using their imagination.
Read on to learn more about the importance of role play for child development as well as the different stages of pretend play.
Why Is Role Play Important For Child Development?
Role play is a fun and amusing method for children to not only play but also learn about the relationships around them, whilst building vital skills for future development throughout life such as confidence, communication and problem solving skills.
For example, role play can encourage children to mimic real life scenarios or characters such as their mum, or even their local dentist. This can help them to identify the characteristics that they recognise within those people and mimic them in their own behaviour, encouraging them to be more socially aware in future interactions with the people around them.
Furthermore, role play is a very imaginative activity that holds little rules and alot of freedom. This can help children to be confident enough to express themselves and the niche characteristics within their personality of which they may have not been confident enough to do so before.
Benefits Of Role Play In Early Years
Role play can have a huge variety of benefits for children in the early years of their lives and a lot of parents can often underestimate these benefits. Below we have detailed the main benefits of role play for children to make it clearer for parents.
Develops Communication and Language Skills
Playing role play encourages children to use new words, intonation and accents that they may not use in everyday conversation. This is beneficial because it broadens their vocabulary and the way they communicate something to another person, which is vital for when they grow up.
Allows Children to Act Out Real Life Situations
According to research, role play also helps children to learn the positive and negative impact of actions that they take. This means that when children act out real life scenarios they can choose how to respond and experience, in a playful environment, how different people would react. This is important for their development because it builds their social and problem solving skills.
Helps Children to Learn About Different Culture
Often when role play is done in early years at school, the teachers provide costumes and scenarios that can include a variation of cultures. It is beneficial for your children to be exposed to different cultures because it makes them more socially aware and respectful when they meet people of different backgrounds in real life. Additionally, it also exposes them to the freedom of having different beliefs which can help them develop a sense of individuality as they grow older.
What does a child learn from role play?
A child learns a variety of skills from role play, but the main one being the freedom to express themselves in a safe environment. Role play is part of the imagination and is all about trying out new things and tesing new behaviours, costumes, accents, languages and body language. With this freedom a child can learn how peers react to them, how different behaviours make them feel and from that they can determine how best to treat other people.
Furthermore, the act of freedom can allow them to discover their own personality, whether that be humorous, shy, outgoing or adventurous. Role play allows children to learn who they are and explore the types of personalities they would like to adopt. There aren’t many other scenarios where the environment is open enough to do so.
How can role play enhance life skills?
Research has shown that role play can enhance important life skills such as the ability to take in knowledge more effectively. This is due to role play being more interactive, which means that information is better retained by students as they have taken an active role in learning the information, rather than just listening or reading. This is an important skill for life that can be adopted throughout school and in future jobs.
Role play can also enhance life skills such as negotiation, for example. This can be enhanced in the set up of the role play when deciding which child is going to play which character. More often than not there is a popular character that multiple children will want to play and they will have to fairly negotiate who will get to play the character this time round, and someone will have to compromise. This is an important skill for life because negotiation plays an active role in day to day activities that we experience as adults.
What are the stages of pretend play?
Most people are unaware that there are actually some structural stages to pretend role play that make it so successful and interactive for the children. Below we have detailed the main stages of pretend play.
The enactive naming stage is where a child is not yet pretending but is demonstrating their knowledge. For example, this could be a child copying an action they have seen their parents do such as stirring their food. This is not yet playing but the child is starting to learn the difference between what is real and what is not real.
At the age of 12 months, children begin to demonstrate their ability to pretend but only with regards to themselves. For example, your child may pretend to be asleep after a long journey so that you have to carry them. They could be making snoring noises to show you that they are playing or smile at you to give you a sign,
Your child will then begin to use toys or objects to help them in their act of play. For example, when pretending to work on the tills at a supermarket they would reach for their toy television remote to use it as a product scanner. This is known as symbolic play.
Decentered Symbolic Schemas
Between the ages of 12 to 24 months, the child will begin to include other people in their role play. This can be as simple as passing the product scanner/ television remote to someone else so they can scan a product in their imaginary supermarket. They then begin to move on to dolls and figures because they view them as living beings, which is a clear sign of them maturing and developing an understanding of the difference between play and real life.
Sequencing Pretend Acts:
At this stage, the child has learned that tasks within their role play involve a particular order or way of doing things. For example, if wanting to role play feeding their doll they would understand that a bib needs to be applied first from watching real life activities that their parents do, therefore mimicking these actions. This is a sign of them developing memory with their role play games.
The final stage involves the child preparing for the role play game by collecting the props, tools and costumes that they require to act out their play. Normally, they have a particular scenario in mind that they want to play out e.g. teaching a lesson, which requires certain props to make it more believable for them. This stage helps to develop negotiation and persuasion skills.
When does imaginative play stop?
There is no set age limit as to when imaginative play should stop but it has been recognised that as the child begins to develop more independence, grows in maturity and starts to engage in other hobbies, that their focus changes to the fun they are having in their real life rather than in role play. This is normally around the ages of 10-12 when children are leaving primary school, which has a big focus on creativity and play.
About The Early Teacher
The Early Teacher provides a range of educational toys and activities for children to help them develop before and alongside education as well as through creative role play. With a variety of toys and instruments, chosen with your child’s development at the forefront, The Early Teacher can support you in choosing an appropriate toy to aid your child's cognitive development through role play.
For more information on the toys available for role play activities click here.