Role play is the act of imitating the character and behaviour of someone who is different from yourself. It is also often described as fantasy play, pretend play or dramatic play.
Regardless of the term used, it means that a child can pretend to be in another country or in outer space, fight crime like a superhero, roam the Serengeti like Simba or just about anything else their rapidly expanding little minds can dream up.
Pretend play is very often physical and is a wonderful way for children to be active, exercise and develop their gross motor skills. These are put to good use as pilots run around flying their fighter jets in aerial combat, or careening down slides as Fireman Sam dousing a blaze. Whether playing cowboys and Indians from yesteryear or engaging in a full-blown Nerf war in the backyard, imagination play is good for whole body movement and exercise.
Fine motor skills and hand to eye co-ordination are developed too. Dressing dolls in little bits of clothing, rearranging tiny furniture in a dollhouse or dishing out coins in a game of “shop-shop” all require the smaller movements that occur in the wrists, hands and fingers.
The benefits don’t end there either! Social and emotional skills like taking turns, playing cooperatively and expressing appropriate emotions are being practiced, developed and fine-tuned. It builds strong oral communication skills, negotiation skills, confidence, and the ability to make friends, be persistent, and be creative.
Encouraging pretend play is easier than you think and requires remarkably little input from parents. In fact, the less input the better! Often it’s a simple case of providing the props and standing back to watch (secretly) the scenario unfold. Here is a suggestion:
Help your child set up a pretend restaurant at home. The type and size of the “establishment” is limited only by the size of the imagination! You can provide dress-ups, cardboard boxes, play food or play dough, real food and empty food containers, a money box and the play money.
Arrange the dining room chairs airplane-style complete with plush toys for travelers and heels for the air hostess. Don’t forget cool shades for the pilot and a cardboard box for the cockpit. The world is their oyster as they fly off to other countries or outer space!
Everyone loves the local bakery, especially the one that turns out mud pies and sand biscuits. Old pots, pans and spatulas find new life in this backyard culinary delight.
Albert Einstein said, “Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.”