7 Reason’s why dramatic play is so important + 15 Resources that Help

Delve into the world of childhood imagination and you can be anything: a doctor one day a princess unicorn the next. There’s no limits and it’s a joy to watch.


Not only is dramatic play joyful and creative, it’s also brilliant for cognitive development too.


According to research more advanced socio-dramatic play emerges from the age of 4 and in order to play in this fashion, children need to be able to play symbolically. However pretend play based on everyday events can be observed from the age of 2-3 onwards. You might notice your toddler pretending to be a member of the Paw Patrol or acting as a dinosaur, for example.


From my own experiences as a mother of 3, I have noticed that the really intricate dramatic play starts from 4-5. My 5 year old daughter will often lead the way with dramatic play scenarios, involving her younger brother in her games. Typical scenes include a trip to the vets, café and airport!

What is symbolic play?

Simply put, this is using one object as a substitute for something else. For example, a stick as a wand, a bowl of pinecones acting as ‘food.’ You might have seen the infographic, ‘it’s not a stick, it’s a wand, sword etc’ on social media.

HOWEVER a child first needs to understand what each item is before they can use them as a substitute in play. At home, mine love to use pinecones, conkers, acorns and dried flowers as a substitute for play food in the play kitchen.

dramatic play girl pretending to be a vet giving Sven the Reindeer a check-up

7 benefits of dramatic play:

  1.  Cognitive Development – children use past experiences ( a visit to the café, for example) and create a picture of what the experience was like in their minds – they then use those experiences  in play.
  2. Understanding how the world works – dramatic play is a way of processing events and understanding how our society works.
  3. Develops speaking and listening skills – especially when playing with siblings or friends
  4. Extends vocabulary – there are many opportunities to learn new words.
  5. Develops social skills – saying please and thankyou, understanding emotions
  6. Mathematical concepts – from counting to using ‘money’ to pay for things.
  7. Problem solving skills – children need to work together to assign roles to one another or even act as a difficult customer!

15 of our favourite resources for dramatic play:

  1. pots and pans
  2. cash register
  3. doctors bag
  4. play silks
  5. wooden bowls
  6. kitchen utensils
  7. nature treasures – conkers, pinecones, sticks
  8. Grapat Carla set (can be used as a substitute for play food
  9. old wallets/purses
  10. costume jewellery
  11. old store loyalty cards
  12. old telephone
  13. dress-up box (can be bought costumes or old materials / charity shop finds)
  14. IKEA chalk board – for writing signs, shop fronts.


Want More?

Check out the following blog Posts:

10 Must Have Toys for the Play Space

10 IKEA Favourite that will Transform your Play Space

Spread the Word!

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Sian Thomas
an image of This Playful Home founder, Sian Thomas. The photo includes a photo of her daughter when she was around 18 months old

I’m Siân (rhymes with yarn), a play advocate, proud parent to three, and former teacher. My mission is to infuse more joy and less overwhelm into the lives of parents. Discover play-based activities with me that not only make learning FUN but also forge deep connections with your young learners, creating memories to cherish forever.