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.
7 benefits of dramatic play:
- 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.
- Understanding how the world works – dramatic play is a way of processing events and understanding how our society works.
- Develops speaking and listening skills – especially when playing with siblings or friends
- Extends vocabulary – there are many opportunities to learn new words.
- Develops social skills – saying please and thankyou, understanding emotions
- Mathematical concepts – from counting to using ‘money’ to pay for things.
- 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:
- pots and pans
- cash register
- doctors bag
- play silks
- wooden bowls
- kitchen utensils
- nature treasures – conkers, pinecones, sticks
- Grapat Carla set (can be used as a substitute for play food
- old wallets/purses
- costume jewellery
- old store loyalty cards
- old telephone
- dress-up box (can be bought costumes or old materials / charity shop finds)
- IKEA chalk board – for writing signs, shop fronts.
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