Also known as pretend or make-believe play, role-play allows children to explore new identities by adopting a character or persona and acting out its role. This type of play and its associated themes may be fictitious - a fairy, wizard, troll etc. - or it may imitate real life occupational roles, such as a teacher, shopkeeper, parent, doctor and so forth. During role-play, a child typically assumes their chosen identity and creates a make-believe world based on their creative imagination with the assistance of props, usually in the form of toys and household objects. Role-play helps children not only to explore, but also to understand and relate to everyday reality – hence children pretending to use a phone or to drive a car, is a common sight.
How Is It Beneficial To Development?
Role-play is essentially learning through play and helping to expand a child’s way of thinking – it is a type of creative play with numerous benefits in terms of both development and entertainment. Although it is typically guided by the provision of toys and props, role-play is entirely child led, allowing children to let their imaginations run wild within a safe space. This enables them to represent and act out their ideas, which in turn helps to develop skills and confidence. It is therefore unsurprising that most nurseries and pre-schools have dedicated areas, kitted out with the appropriate props and toys, to encourage creative role-play.
Some of the main benefits of role-play include the following:
Supporting Emotional Development
Role-play offers an emotional outlet – providing a safe place where children can address their emotions and understand information. It is a free space, although obviously in a safe and controlled environment, but one that through the re-enactment of the behaviour of others or even of themselves during role-play, helps children to manage and process their emotions and provides an opportunity to process both positive and negative experiences and feelings.
Making Sense of The World
Role-play provides an opportunity for children to make sense of the world around them, whilst at the same time, helping to boost cognitive abilities - a complex role-play scene may involve several different events, different characters all of which in varied pretend locations. This can help to promote an understanding of the wider world, the concept of geographical locations and local communities; for example, pretending to be in a particular location, at the beach or exploring a familiar local region. The use of technology and machinery is often present in such play, using phones, pretending to scan things at the checkout, toolkits and kitchen utensils to name but a few.
Encouraging Social Skills
When children engage in role-play together, they inevitably end up sharing ideas and engaging in cooperation with one another. This helps to develop and enhance social skills such as communication, turn taking and decision making, sharing, and on occasions, planning out a sequence of events. It also helps to foster empathy and build friendships - allowing children to learn to take into consideration other people’s points of view. The re-enactment of any particular role itself, also prompts a child to reflect on how someone else may behave in another situation, for example, what a teacher may say to his or her class – this exercises a child’s understanding of the thoughts and responses of other people.
Encouraging Physical Development
Children are often very active during role-play, moving around whilst in character, they may incorporate other physical activities such as dancing or jumping, depending on the theme of the play and the nature of the child. They may also wish to prepare the area for the theme of the role play, setting up the kitchen, or the shop for example, something which involves both mental and physical planning and, at the same time, helps to improve spatial awareness.
Building Confidence & Self Awareness
As previously noted, this type of play is child-led, meaning that the child is in charge of the direction of the play and what happens – organising different roles, discussing ideas and if working with others, adjusting their roles to suit different situations. All of this helps to build confidence and self-awareness.
Developing Speech, Language and Communication Skills
Many of the themes for role-play stimulate speech and language development, especially when more than one child is present. Occupational roles invariably use language to issue instructions, for example, the class teacher, or parents in the home. Children may also improve their literacy skills by designing lists, cards, invitations, menus for a café and so forth. Good quality role-play toys are often designed to encourage and develop numeracy and literacy skills.
Enhancing Numeracy Skills
Role-play which involves any sort of sale (in the shop, at the market) or ordering food at the restaurant, typically uses some form of counting. This may vary in complexity, but there are many role-play toys which can help children with number recognition, counting skills, and a basic understanding of the concept of money and division.
Our Role-Play Collection
We offer a wide selection of ethically made wooden toys – our Honeybake role-play toys are designed to encourage children to get into character and act out real life scenarios, enabling them to learn through play and improve their developmental and emotional skills, as well as providing hours of endless entertainment. Some of our most popular role-play toys include: