As we move through the year, children develop closer bonds and their play evolves. We see children participate in many different role-play games where they pretend to be many things from babies, cats, police, doctors and of course families. Role-play games provide opportunities for children to process their feelings and understandings in a safe environment. Children see the real world and use role-play as a way of processing knowledge from the ‘real world’. How do I care for a cat? What does it mean to be a mum? or What happens when I go to the Doctors?
However, not all role-play games are nurturing, some test boundaries, some express feelings such as sadness, fear or anger. These types of playful behaviours can sometimes create a degree of discomfort for adults and children, due to misunderstanding the differences between this type of play and real expression of feelings. Assigning of roles in their play is an example of this and often children will opt out of the play when their desired role is assigned to another. A common response is ‘X doesn’t want to play with me’ when in reality X wanted a ‘favourite’ role for themselves.
When we hear or see this type of play, as educators we analyse it. We look at how the children are feeling as well as responding, if this play is safe for them and those around them. The next step would be to decide if the game needs adult intervention or if the children are able to manage the game successfully. Our last step in this process is to support the children to analyse and understand what they are saying or hearing and how it makes them feel?
Role-play is a huge part of our curriculum and child development. It is filled with big emotions. When we nurture and support these big emotions we are helping the children understand how to regulate their behaviours, become more independent and resilient. Therefore, spaces are set aside for it within our classrooms and outside. We often create an environment for the children to role play such as a home corner, doctors office, or vet area.
Based on Piaget’s Theory of Play, it is believed that role-play permits children to fit the reality of the world into their own interests and knowledge. He noted that one of the purest forms of symbolic thought available to young children is role-play and that it contributes strongly to the intellectual development of children.
This is part of normal childhood development and role-play should be encouraged as it assists children to learn about their emotions, roles of adults in society and their place in the world.
Mitchell Brooke | ELC Teacher