Importance and Benefits of Role Play in Early Childhood Education

Role playing also known as “imaginative play”, “dramatic play” or “pretend play” is a vital aspect of a child’s early education years. It has innumerable benefits in child’s development; especially in areas of intellectual and cognitive abilities, social skills, moral reasoning and internalization of values.

Role Play involves the child under-taking a make belief role; it can either be assigned to the child by a teacher in the classroom, or by a parent at home or it can be assumed by the child on his own; as it often happens in the presence of specific toys, such as a doll house; the girls automatically assume the role of a mother – taking care of dolls, brushing their hair, giving them food, putting them to sleep. On the other hand, the teacher may direct the students to assume a particular role, for example; dividing the children into groups of doctor, nurses and patients.

Whether the child self-assumes the role or is directed by the teacher, in each case they’re learning significant things; which may be difficult to teach otherwise. When children indulge in role play, they adeptly learn;

 * The art of communication,

 * The significance of the character they’re playing,

 * Manipulation of things to their advantage (for example, toys and tools available)

 * Their moral and ethical obligations of the character,

 * Problem-solving and intellectual skills through perceiving and overcoming the dilemmas they face while they’re in “role”

 * And also, the “values” of the person they’re playing, this may also lead them to internalize these values, if the character is somebody they identify with.

Role playing employs many cognitive strategies; such as planning, negotiating, problem solving, and goal seeking and sometimes even working together to achieve super-ordinate goals. All these strategies help the children to develop the ability to transform objects and actions symbolically and mastering interactive social dialogue and negotiation; and perhaps the best out come of this kind of play is, cultivation and nurturance of creativity.

Additionally, researches have demonstrated the importance of role playing and pretence play which undoubtedly has a vital role in young children’s lives and education – Not only is it important in the early pre-school years, rather it’s significance extends beyond the primary school years. Recently a “cognitive theory of pretence” has been proposed, which implies that the phenomenon of pretence can be explained by the presence of a “separate mental workspace” within the human brain.

Although no research has confirmed this theory yet, it emphasizes the importance of play-cognition relationship for humans. It has been suggested that pretend or role play engages many areas of the brain since it engages not only emotion, cognition, language, but also, sensorimotor actions. Hence, it can enhance the growth and development of dense synaptic connections within the brain cells.