Role play is an activity that is often found in early childhood education settings. Role play can come in several forms. The first is planned role play where the educational professional will designate specific roles and scenarios to the children. The second is free-form role play. This is where children naturally take on roles, either in natural play or as a response to the materials and toys they are given to play with. This is much more than just a fun activity for children to do as there are also many educational and developmental benefits to role play.
Social skills are not something that we are simply born with. They are a wide-ranging set of skills that are learnt through experiences of different social situations and are a response to cultural stimuli and an understanding of different contexts. Examples of such skills are speaking, listening, teamwork, working independently, decision making and leadership. These skills are all useful in life and a child will gradually develop these skills in different ways by adapting to different situations. Role play allows them to look at some of these different situations and gives them varied experiences with other children.
Young children are selfish in the sense that they are entirely focused on their own feelings and how the things that they do affect them. Role play allows them to consider the effect of their actions on others and to examine other people’s feelings. This in turn enhances their own personal and emotional development.
Role play usually involves both speaking and listening so it is a natural expectation that role play can help children to develop these skills. Within these skill sets are sub-skills that are also greatly improved by this type of play activity. Examples include taking turns in a conversation, increased vocabulary and improved understanding of different language concepts.
Encourages engagement in education
The opportunity to participate in fun activities in a learning environment will show children that learning can be fun. This will encourage and motivate them to engage in further educational activities willingly. They will also see their current learning environment as a happy and fun place to be and this can be helpful for children who were initially unsure or unwilling to attend kindergarten or preschool.
The different activities that children will be involved in when playing role play activities can further their physical development. Skills are usually divided into two groups; fine motor skills and gross motor skills. Fine motor skills are those that involve smaller, more intricate movements, such as pencil holding or handling smaller pieces of equipment. Gross motor skills are those that involve larger movements, such as running, catching a ball or carrying a larger object. At different times, role plays may enable children to develop both of these groups of skills.
Although role play is fun for children and is a regular part of their play activity in early childhood education it also serves a useful purpose in promoting educational and personal development. These include encouraging engagement in learning activities, emotional development, language development and the promotion of social skills.