By: Suzanne Moore, M.S., CCC-SLP
Between virtual learning and the increased availability of electronic entertainment for children, teaching our kids play skills is more important than ever. Children can learn endless valuable skills through modeling by adult play partners that just can’t be taught as well by a TV show or a teacher on a screen. Dramatic or pretend play teaches children new vocabulary, social skills, empathy, life skills, executive function, and it increases their imagination and creativity.
Importance of Dramatic Play in Childhood Development
Research demonstrates that play should actually be the primary mode of education in early childhood classrooms. Therefore, as play can teach so many awesome skills, and it is proven to be the best way to teach those skills, parents, early childhood teachers, and speech-language pathologists should incorporate dramatic play into learning whenever we can!
What is Dramatic Play?
Kids between four and a half and six years old love dramatic play. When engaging in dramatic play, the participants all have roles. Each person acts out their role during organized activities. I bet you are thinking about “playing house” right now! In my therapy room, I love playing “ice cream shop.” One person plays the role of the customer and the other is the ice cream maker. We use different sizes and colors of pom-poms as our ice cream scoops and sprinkles.
What Kind of Communication Goals can be Targeted with Dramatic Play?
Just about any communication goal, you can think of can be targeted with dramatic play. For example, during the ice cream shop game, I target;
- Answering questions/making requests (i.e. What size do you want? What flavors do you want? How much does that cost?)
- Basic linguistic concepts (colors, shapes, sizes, shapes, numbers)
- Following complex directions (I want one big red scoop and one small blue scoop).
However, these are just a few examples. Goals such as greetings, asking for help, increasing attention time, increasing utterance length, use of eye contact, and much much more can be taught during dramatic play. You don’t even have to have a specific goal in mind when playing with your child. As long as you are engaging in creative conversation together as you play, your child will reap the benefits!
Does Dramatic Play Require a lot of Set-Up, Toys, and Materials?
No! Kids love to “play pretend” in a way that mirrors real life. That means that everyday objects and toys that you already have at home can be used for dramatic play. For example,
- Stuffed animals and cardboard boxes can be turned into a pet store!
- Your kitchen and dining room can become a five-star restaurant!
- You can use fake food and a wicker basket to go on a “trip” to the grocery store.
- A book turned on its side and propped up can become a laptop that kids can use to pretend like they are an office worker.
- Maybe they can even use a banana as their office phone!
Don’t worry if you don’t have the perfect materials or toys. You can help your kid’s creativity soar by using one object to represent another.
Dramatic play opportunities are endless! Happy playing!
Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center has locations in the Iowa City, IA area and Des Moines, IA area. We provide individual speech-language therapy and tutoring as well as offering small group academic programs. At Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center our passion is to help kids achieve effective communication skills and gain academic success. Contact us for more information on how we can help your child succeed.
740 Community Drive, Unit A
North Liberty, IA 52317
5530 West Pkwy, Suite 300
Johnston, IA 50131