If you listen closely near a nursery school, right around recess, you are nearly certain to hear the infamous melody of the juvenile Drama Llama. Cries of ‘He’s breathing at me!’, ‘She took my toy!’, and the dreaded announcement ‘I don’t like you anymore!’ accompany the sounds of tears and fighting as they echo through the air. But is all this drama really necessary? To come directly to the point, yes. Drama in the early formative years serves many purposes.
Preschool dramatics are an early method of learning about social interaction. Children learn what is and is not acceptable behavior to adults, but also to their peers. Angry arguments about a stolen toy teach very young children the basics of standing up for their rights and simple problem solving techniques. These disagreements can also, if handled correctly, teach the child to respect the feelings of others. They discover new ways to express their own emotions and communication skills to help them describe those emotions to others.
These dramatic interactions give young children an opportunity to discover how they deal with people of various personality types. They also become more aware and inclined to trust their intuition about people, which eventually leads to more faith in their ability to accurately gauge a situation. They learn self-confidence and discover that speaking up is the better path to self respect. They develop the courage to be their own person and begin to develop the conviction that they are a worth while human being with much to contribute.
Dramatic events and interactions conducted in a safe environment are also a way to experiment with different aspects of their personality. It is a unique, unparalleled opportunity to find out what parts of themselves they like best and begin to develop those traits. What we see as a dramatic interaction may, for the child under observation, in actuality be an attempt to pick a personality they want to develop. They are still young enough that they may be playful, serious, angry, happy, calm and wild in rapid succession without serious concern being expressed. Allow them to take advantage of this time in whatever fashion they come up with; it is a time that only comes once.
What an adult views as unnecessary drama, pointless bickering, or overly enthusiastic contrariness, if seen from a fresh angle, may actually be the most information packed thing a child does in the course of their day. While they cannot tell you what they are learning, do not doubt that it exists. The drama of preschool will morph as a child grows, but never dissipate; the skills they learn today by the swing set may be exactly those they call upon to make it tomorrow in the boardroom.