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Dramatic Play & Child Development

by Becky Swain

Dramatic or make-believe play transports your child to another place and time where the common denominator for each activity is fun. Children love other forms of play such as hide-and-seek and art, but dramatic play provides distinctive, lasting benefits for child development. You can inspire and reinforce opportunities for dramatic play in your home that do not require elaborate accommodations or costly toys.

Social Development

When your child engages in dramatic play, she experiments with new roles in much the same manner that she slips her feet into a new pair of shoes. As a child tries on different roles in dramatic play, she gains empathy and explores her emotions by assuming another person’s perspective, according to Scholastic.com. Although self-control remains a problem for some children, interacting with peers in dramatic play builds self-control as children learn to share, take turns and solve problems. Dramatic play nurtures cooperation when your child observes that the activity becomes fun for everyone when everyone cooperates.

Cognitive Development

Under your child’s tiara or fireman’s hat, cognitive development continues to progress, and the themes surrounding dramatic play grow as well. Dramatic play benefits your child’s cognitive development as she investigates novel concepts, play designs and exciting new roles, according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Dramatic play challenges your child to practice reasoning skills that help her to resolve a problem and prepare her for future cognitive dilemmas. Unsuccessful play strategies inspire new ideas when your child observes what didn’t work.

Language Development

Dramatic play facilitates language development as your child communicates with her real or make-believe playmates. Playtime unrolls seamlessly as your child assumes different roles in new adventures that build her expressive language skills. Language development flourishes in a setting where the imagination is allowed to roam.

Inspire Dramatic Play

Your child needs unstructured time to develop and enact her imaginary concepts. Use story time as an opportunity to help your child explore a new character’s role and daily activities. For example, say, “Duck and Hedgehog look happy in their new home. If you were Hedgehog, what would you cook for breakfast?” Talk about the people your child observes on excursions. Say, “You watched the zookeeper feed the penguins. What else do you think the zookeeper does?”

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