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Building Skills with Dramatic Play

2016-11-24 by Sheryl Cooper

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Our guest blogger Sheryl of Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds shares ideas for building skills with dramatic play!

Playtime is a very important part of our toddler and preschool classrooms. During this era of young children being exposed to more screen time, we must remember the importance of providing plenty of hands-on exploration and play. How can we create an environment that is meaningful for our children, that gives them the space to develop creativity as they explore and use their imaginations?

Perhaps this is why our dramatic play area is so popular. Our toddlers and preschoolers draw from their own experiences as they dress up, make pretend meals, set the table, all the while learning how to take turns and build conversations. The more open-ended we can keep the materials, the more creative they can be.

And don’t let all this play fool you. There is so much learning taking place!

pretend play, dramatic play and important skills

Building Skills with Dramatic Play Experiences

When Melissa & Doug Toys sent us one of their deluxe kitchens, along with play food and accessories, I was beyond excited! I knew they’d be an important part of our toddlers’ and preschoolers’ play experiences. The dramatic play area has always been a busy section of our classroom. Many new skills are developed through imaginary play. So having new materials to explore was quite exciting!

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Role Playing

As soon as the children entered the dramatic play area, they became imaginary characters. Who will be the cook? Who will serve the food? Who will be the people that sit at the table? It can be decided quickly, or it can take some time, depending on the children involved, but it’s a very important part of play. They are realizing that everyone’s feelings matter, that everyone plays a part.

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Use of Materials

Before we open our dramatic play area, we set the stage by providing open-ended materials that will allow children to use their own ideas. There are no instructions on how these materials should be used. The play that develops from these materials will change depending on who the players are.

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Pretending

The dramatic play area is important because it stimulates curiosity, allowing children to explore different situations and outcomes. They are learning and growing as they not only express their own ideas, but learn to understand the ideas of the other children. They are pretending to be chefs and customers, perhaps imitating what they have seen in real-life experiences.

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Social Skills

The dramatic play area is also one of the best places to work on sharing. Young children begin to realize that it’s not all about what they want. They need to consider the needs of the children they are playing with. This can be quite a challenge for some children who might be used to getting what they want, when they want. But eventually they will see the value of sharing, learning how to take turns for a successful and fun play experience.

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Communication

The dramatic play area encourages children to use speaking and listening skills. They need to use their words to express what roles they’d like to play, what materials they need to use. They learn to listen so that they can understand what the other children need. They realize that play is more fun when everyone is working together.

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What I’ve shared has been for the early childhood classroom. But what about at home? You don’t need a lot of space to provide areas for dramatic play. Perhaps your child’s bedroom, or a corner of your family room. Imagine the fun with siblings, or friends during a play date. The same benefits will be available that I mentioned above.

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Sheryl Cooper

Sheryl is the founder of Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds, a website full of activities for toddlers and preschoolers. She has been teaching this age group for over 15 years in the Pacific Northwest. Sheryl loves to share her passion with teachers, parents, grandparents, and anyone with young children in their lives. Sheryl is active on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

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