Building friendships with role play activities is an important part of our preschool classroom curriculum. So much of what we do involves working together, building a community, and learning how to treat and respect each other. We start this on the very first day of preschool.
Children start playing more with each other around their third birthday. Rather than playing side-by-side, they are actually playing together, having a dialogue, learning how to cooperate. This is an important time for teaching empathy, too.
What is a good friend? How do we treat our friends? What do we like to do with our friends? How do our friends make us feel?
Role play is an excellent way to encourage young children to play with each other. As they are engaged in pretend play, they are also demonstrating what is very meaningful to them – their home and families. For this reason, we make sure to start our school year with a friends and family theme.
This week we are setting up our preschool classroom for a new school year. Even though school doesn’t start for another couple of weeks, we are taking our time thinking about what toys and materials we will use. What will make our students feel comfortable as they get to know their new friends and surroundings?
Setting up our classroom means putting all our furniture back into the classroom, rearranging it several times until we feel it’s “just right”. We are also pulling the toys and materials out of the storage room that will be used that first week of school.
(Teachers, I know you will appreciate that when this house is not being used, it folds and stores nicely on a shelf. Anything larger than this would be a storage issue since our space is limited.)
During our centers time we will pull the dollhouse, cars, and dolls from the shelf and place it on the floor. This gives our preschoolers room to move around, since our hope is that several children will be playing together.
We chose this activity because it is very meaningful to young children. They relate to the people they live with. As they role play with one or more other children, they are using their language skills. They might talk to each other about what their own family did recently, or create a dialogue between the doll family members.
This is also a great activity for teaching turn-taking. Who is going to have which doll? What role will that doll have?
Role play can also happen with puzzles. We chose our around the house sound puzzle. Our preschoolers can relate to this house, can notice the similarities and differences between the puzzle house and the house they live in. They can role play what is happening in this house and have a conversation with their new friends while placing the pieces on and off the puzzle.
During circle time we will ask each preschooler what color their house is. Who lives in their house?
Any kind of dolls and figures are a fun way to get young children involved in role playing.
A new addition this back-to-school will be Melissa & Doug’s magnetic dress up sets. We are making sure there are several figures so our preschoolers can interact with each other, building language skills as they are making new friends.
I cannot wait to meet our new students in a couple of weeks, knowing good friendships will be made during the school year!
What are your favorite activities to encourage friendships? Head on over to Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds to check out a fun collection of friendship stories, songs and activities!
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