The Importance of Dramatic Play During Childhood

During dramatic play, the limits of reality are removed and children can pretend to be someone or something other than themselves.
The Importance of Dramatic Play During Childhood

Last update: 26 December, 2021

Dramatic play is a type of play where children accept and assign roles and then act them out. During dramatic play, the limits of reality are transcended and children can pretend to be someone or something different from themselves, dramatizing various situations and actions based on the role they’ve chosen or been assigned.

Experts agree that dramatic play is an integral part of early childhood development. Through this type of play, children learn a wide variety of skills. In fact, the International Association for Early Childhood Education has stated that play is a natural part of childhood development that can’t be substituted by interaction with adults. This means that even adult instruction can’t replace the valuable experience children gain through play–dramatic play in particular.

What Children Learn Through Dramatic Play

This type of play is part of the child’s integral learning and development process, as it allows them to develop skills in very diverse areas, such as abstract thinking, literacy, mathematics, or social skills, among others. In addition, during dramatic play, children have the opportunity to modify scenes from their own life, that is, they can reinvent scenes that could take place in other areas.

A toddler having a tea party in a field.

Specifically, dramatic play allows the child the following:

Children learn about themselves and the world:

Dramatic play experiences are some of the first ways children learn about their likes and dislikes, their interests, and their abilities. They experiment with role-playing games and work to make sense of what they’ve observed.

Children work on issues that create confusion or fear:

Through dramatic play, children explore things that scare or confuse them, as well as new things. Through these role-playing games, children feel more comfortable and prepared for life’s events.

Children develop important social and complex thinking skills:

This is about much more than just play activities. Advanced thinking, communication, and social skills are required. With imaginary games, children learn to do things like negotiate, take into account the perspectives of others, transfer knowledge from one situation to another, balance their own ideas with others, develop a plan and act accordingly, explore symbolism, express and listen to thoughts and ideas, assign tasks and roles, and synthesize different information and ideas.

Children learn to cultivate social and emotional intelligence:

How we relate to others is the key to our success in life and happiness. Knowing how to read social cues, recognize and regulate emotions, negotiate, take turns, and participate in a long-term activity are skills and abilities that are explored through this type of play.

Children synthesize knowledge and skills:

Children need opportunities to combine their skills and knowledge. Dramatic play is an ideal way to do this.

Ideas to promote dramatic play in children

Parents can encourage and stimulate this type of play in children to enhance their learning and development skills, but also to get to know them better and discover their fears, interests, and even those areas in which the child needs more stimulation.

A little girl playing with finger puppets.

Here are some activities and tips to promote dramatic play in children.

Recreate stories: Invite your child to recreate their favorite story and then create their personal version or even modify it. During the game, boost their ideas by asking questions that elicit unknown or alternative answers.

Provide dolls and puppets: Make sure your child has ample access to things like dolls, stuffed animals, action figures, etc., which can be purchased or homemade. Through dramatic play, children easily attribute feelings and ideas to their dolls and often use them to express, explore, and resolve their own ideas, thoughts, and feelings.

Create a drama kit: In a box or similar container, store different elements that can be used by the child to feed their dramatic play, such as dolls, dress-up costumes, props to create sets, etc.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.