It’s a known fact, among parents and child care professionals, that children love to role play. They will try on outfits, create dialogue, and use any household object to create a character for as long as their playmates will cooperate. Children will pretend to be almost anything they can find a prop for. However, this isn’t the only reason why daycares, preschools, and early learning centers often feature a costume box and role playing stations. You may be surprised to discover that the process of acting out roles and exploring new identities is an important part of personality and logical development.
Developing Objective Thought through Role Play
As an adult, when you need to think your way through a problem or consider something from another person’s point of view, you sit down and think about it quietly. But where do these tools for objective thought come from? Perspective is a logical skill, much like math, and it has to start somewhere. Acting out a role is similar to ‘asking yourself’ how someone else might feel or act in a situation. Children think of it as playing but if you watch them, they are exercising their understanding and trying to understand how another person would think and respond. In many ways, this form of play will help children to be more logical, diplomatic, and empathic as they grow up.
Role Playing ‘House’
Why do children love to play House more than any other role playing game? Because it is the center of human interaction. They use their own families along with books and media depictions to determine what it means to be a ‘mother’ or ‘father’, something that will stick with them and shape their relationships for the rest of their lives. Playing House with children from other kinds of families and cultural backgrounds can serve to expand their idea of family to include these new variations. In this acting game, they explore how it feels to try on the authority role or the supportive role and practice family dynamics with each other in a way that will give them perspective when they get older.
Exploring Careers through Role Play
When children decide what they want to be when they grow up, they typically enact their desire through role play. Putting on a fireman’s hat and pretending to rescue people or wearing a doctor’s coat and pretending to make a diagnosis can empower them to feel that this goal is attainable. While not every child decides so early, and many who make a decision do not continue on that path into adulthood, it’s fundamental to a child’s development for them to understand their potential and their options, and to see themselves in different roles.
Preschools and parents alike will often try to provide a wide selection of role play toys like carpenter kits, pretend food, magnifying glasses, and so on to give children the opportunity to test as many career possibilities as they care to. Some teachers can even provide guided development by purposefully introducing career-toys to the collection and explaining or demonstrating how someone in that job might think, feel, and act.
Role-playing is an important part of early childhood development because it helps children to understand each other and the world around them. Children who have ample opportunity to role play and guides that can supplement their pretending with new information, gain useful insight that will help them for the rest of their lives.
The next time you see your child wearing a silly costume and speaking as a character, remember that they are teaching themselves logical and emotional skills and consider joining in for a while to provide the benefits of your experience.
If you’d like to learn more about how young minds develop during the preschool years, please contact us today.