Dramatic play is an important part of learning to empathize. As a child steps into another person's shoes they are fitting into a different role. As we all know, how they take on that role can be very entertaining. Acting as a parent, they can scold their children, organize chores and cook energetically.
In doing so they are recognizing the important job parents have.
As a construction worker they hammer in nails, saw wood and jackhammer concrete, all physical jobs appropriate to the role.
In pretending to be different people or jumping into imaginary situations, children are able to explore their knowledge and understanding of roles in a safe way. The benefits of this fun play are numerous and include:
To take on another role, children need to think from a different perspective. In doing this they begin to understand what it means to empathize.
To play in a group and develop a dramatic play scenario, children need to work together. Asking questions, communicating and sharing are all part of the dramatic play experience.
Setting a problem such as how to organize a doctor's office or deciding who should be the patient are typical problems children may encounter while engaging in dramatic play. Working out the problem and then finding a solution are essential skills which dramatic play helps to develop.
As children play in a dramatic scenario, they can use their developing conflict resolution skills. Children can often feel more confident practicing these skills in an imaginary role than as themselves. Compromises can sometimes be reached more readily as children are already thinking outside their own experiences.
Dramatic Play is a wonderful opportunity to develop many essential skills. As educators all we have to do is provide the tools, sit back and enjoy watching learning happen naturally and maybe join in the play occasionally!