You have undoubtedly noticed that most preschool classrooms have a dramatic play skills area well stocked with dress-up clothes and real-life pretend items such as plastic foods, pots and pans, telephone, ironing board, dolls, and more.
Children are able to take things they have observed in their day-to-day life and apply them to these make-believe environments. These play items allow for pretend play and the practicing of a variety of skills. Many experts believe that this pretend play helps children to develop and work on new skills, thus it is important to encourage dramatic play skills.
Dramatic Play Skills to Practice
Most children with with various isms will want to participate in dramatic play, but they may lack some of the necessary skills. It is important to encourage participation, because it provides children with the opportunity to work on and practice a number of important play skills. Here are examples of some of the skills a child may be working on during their dress-up time:
Social & Emotional Dramatic Play Skills
During dramatic play children try on different roles, i.e., they pretend they are someone else. They learn to cooperate and negotiate with each other as they select their roles and the play scenario. They learn to take turns with props and roles. The role-playing also provides them with the opportunity to see the world through another person’s eyes and to begin to understand the feelings of others. This helps build empathy for others.
Language from Dramatic Play Skills
Children must use their words to negotiate the play time with the other children. Also, when children pretend to be someone else, they will often take on the words and language of the person they are imitating. It is not unusual to hear a girl repeating her mother’s words as she is pretending to be mommy.
Physical Dramatic Play Skills
While role-playing, children must use their fine motor skills when buttoning a jacket or dressing a baby. Hand-eye coordination is also practiced as they interact with the various props in the pretend area.
Cognitive Thinking Dramatic Play Skills
Pretend play involves a lot of abstract thinking. Children will take an object and pretend it is something else. For example, if children are creating a restaurant, they may use small objects to represent money. Children must also not only plan what they want to do, but they need to use their organizational skills to gather materials and to work with other children that may be involved in their role-playing activities.
Ideas for Dramatic Play
All children can benefit from dramatic play because it allows them to practice valuable life skills. It is important for parents and teachers to work with children with special needs so that they can participate as fully as the rest of their peers. Tara Delaney’s book, 101 Games and Activities for Children With Autism, Asperger’s and Sensory Processing Disorders, could be a good place to start. It contains over a 100 games to help teach eye contact, turn-taking, increase focus, and many other skills necessary for preschool and kindergarten. Play can have many positive results on children and it is important for all children to be able to participate.