Role play gives children an opportunity to stretch their imagination, mimic family members in everyday scenarios and generally develop a better understanding of the world around them.
From around the age of 18 months, little ones begin to explore boundaries and develop their own identity – imaginative play is a fantastic way to encourage this growing independence and comprehension of their surroundings. Whether they’re a drummer bashing pots and pans, a shopkeeper in their play kitchen or a parent putting baby to bed, this type of pretend play demonstrates their learning by observation and allows them to act it out in a safe environment.
Encourage imagination and creativity
Pretend play is a crucial component of a child’s development. They think they’re simply having fun but actually, they’re also developing a plethora of skillsets that will set them up for life. It’s a given that little ones have to use their imagination in pretend play – that in itself reaps huge rewards. They’re exercising their brain. They’re taking their very limited understanding of the world around them and applying it to an imaginary scenario, demonstrating an ability to visualise a situation as well as nurture arising curiosity.
Cultivate social and emotional intelligence
Role play is great for assessing children’s understanding of real-life roles and the emotions that can come with them. By stepping into different characters (whether that’s professions, TV personalities or family members), they learn all about that role and how they fit into the world. Through this experimenting, they develop empathy and learn to recognise (and regulate) certain feelings. They learn to consider someone else’s perspective, negotiate ideas and assign tasks to other children in the group.
Role play also instills in children the thinking that by pretending, they can be absolutely anything, which builds confidence and a sense of freedom for them to experiment. Look to toys like Tikes Patrol Police Car or kids’ toy kitchen Tasty Bake ‘n Share for props to help them into the role play and accelerate that creativity. The play supermarket is another fantastic item for teaching them about everyday life and the different roles about town.
Develop problem-solving skills
Whichever scenario your little one acts out, there’ll more than likely be a problem to solve or tricky situation to navigate. They’ll learn and practice negotiation skills and develop a better understanding of turn-taking and sharing. Little ones can then use this new-found skill to better deal with and overcome difficult situations in the future.
Build physical strength
Role play is a very physical form of play with lots of movement and exercise involved. As they get active as a policeman on the beat, chef cooking up a storm or pilot flying their plane, you’ll notice how they’re developing their gross motor skills as much they are their imagination. A physical and active lifestyle is extremely important at this age and various role play toys facilitate this. A playhouse can encourage them to busy themselves with ‘chores’ and ensure their garden is kept trim, for example.
Role play toys are a great – and necessary – way to help little ones develop imagination, embrace creativity and learn about their surroundings. And the best bit for us adults is watching where their imagination takes them.