Children need many opportunities to create their own play through imagination and their knowledge of how the world works. With a little planning you can encourage dramatic play throughout your classroom and covering all domains included in Early Childhood education. Dramatic play takes very little teacher involvement, just providing materials and asking some questions to begin and extend the play. Because this is the children’s play, it provides teachers time to observe the children and learn about each individual child’s needs and experiences.
Dramatic Play is a great medium to help children develop their social skills. It teaches empathy by putting themselves into the shoes of another: to practice being a parent, a pet, a community helper, or a storybook character. With a little help from a teacher, dramatic play can help a child who is playing in isolation or in parallel play to enter into a group play. It encourages children to negotiate and cooperate with each other. Dramatic play lends itself to lots of emotional literacy. (I’m sick and need a doctor, I’m scared I want my pretend Mommy, I’m brave and can fight the bad guys). It also encourages conversations and figuring out how to relate to others. And studies have shown that children who know how to communicate well find it easier to make friends and get along better in school settings.
The most basic dramatic play situation is ‘home’. This allows even the youngest children to bring their experiences into the center play. But it is NOT the only dramatic play scenario that you can set up in your classroom. By bringing in simple materials you can provide a variety of meaningful play experiences. It is through dramatic play that children learn to assign roles and act them out. This helps them to deepen their understanding of how the world works (who is going to drive the bus, call 911, be the fireperson/s?). By bringing in materials children learn naturally how to problem-solve and share (How can we keep this sheet from falling down? What can we use to hold all the animals?).
Watch your children as they involve themselves in dramatic play. You can learn a lot about how they understand the workings of the world: (Money concepts, food groups, community experiences, home life experiences). As they role-play home and community experiences they bounce vocabulary words back and forth and ask questions to each other extending and fortifying the play. Dramatic play does not require lots of fancy equipment however it is best to use real objects whenever possible. Younger children may not have the abstract thinking skills needed to use pine needles for spaghetti and pinecones for meatballs. This is where a teacher can move in and help begin the play.
Dramatic play can take place in any center; it has a lot to do with how a teacher sets up the environment. Dramatic play helps enhance your curriculum by naturally providing a place for the children to use the vocabulary and concepts that you have been teaching. It is a great way to enhance literacy by providing props so that children can act out familiar stories. Dramatic play should be interactive, imaginative, flexible, and fun. It should be an activity that the children want to and are encouraged to participate in. So set up an environment and then take advantage of the time and use it for observations.
Teacher Directed Dramatic Play
Going on a Bear Hunt https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzIcu6tbEko
Act out emotions with face and/or whole body
Pretend to be horses (gallop, trot, jump the fence)
Make yourself small, long, tall, short, big, bigger
Pretend to be a tree in the wind
Follow the leader
Act out stories, songs, or poems
Several Prop Box Ideas
Eye Doctor- old reading glass frames with the lenses taken out, simple eye chart using the letter E facing in different directions, a pad of paper and pencil, a flashlight.
Post Office-envelopes new/used, writing materials, stickers for stamps, stamp pad, box made into a postbox, small boxes.
Beach Play-towels, children’s sunglasses, hats, bucket and shovel, empty water bottles, empty sunscreen bottle, basket or bag to put everything in.
Construction Site- small trucks and construction vehicles, sand or dirt in the sensory table, one-inch cubes, construction hats to wear, Popsicle sticks.
Veterinarian- basic doctor kit, stuffed animals, shoe boxes/food boxes for cages, unopened can of cat/dog food.
Fire Persons- fireperson hats, pieces of old hose cut into 3-foot lengths, pictures of firepersons in gear and fighting fires to hang on wall, several chairs and Styrofoam plate to use for a steering wheel.