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Dramatic play

Dramatic play is sometimes called, pretend play, imitative play, and symbolic play.

Dramatic play is s a type of play where children assign and accept roles and act them out. It’s pretending to be someone or something else. Someone different and new like a supervillain, or someone well known and familiar like mom. Sometimes children take on real-world roles, other times they take on fantasy roles. Either way, it is play that involves breaking down the barriers of reality and results in serious and natural learning.

There are two types of pretend play, which are structured and unstructured dramatic play:

  • Structured play has a pre-determined set and desired outcome. A parent or teacher sets up a scenario for the children to play into, such as setting up an “airport“, and the children then choose and assign roles from what it available and then work through problems that arise within the set.
  • Unstructured play is where children have the freedom to choose their own plan scenarios and often create their own sets based on what is available to them. The living room couch might turn into a pirate ship or a shoelace might become a stethoscope in a veterinarian office.

Experts agree that dramatic play is an integral part of a well rounded preschool program as it is healthy for early childhood development. Here are just a few of the many incredible benefits of dramatic play.

  • Relief from emotional tension. Adults tend to cope with a traumatic event by retelling the event over and over. Children, however, tend to replay the event in their dramatic play. For example, if a child attends a funeral, she is likely to “play the funeral” afterward with friends, dolls, etc., as a way to come to terms with the event.
  • Dramatic play teaches self-regulation: Preschoolers are known for acting with impulse, so dramatic play is a great stepping stone for learning to self-regulate their emotions and actions. Interestingly, when children assign and accept roles in dramatic play they are motivated to stick to them, thinking of them as rules to follow. Their own rules. this helps them develop the ability to coordinate and plan with others as well as control their impulses.
  • Children feel powerful. When children re-enact frightening experiences, they tend to put themselves in a position of power. They may choose to play the mommy or daddy, the most powerful people in their lives. In dramatic play, the child can control the events, and wishes can come true.
  • Use of social interaction skills. Dramatic play encourages children to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Such role-playing helps them to improve their ability to do this in real life. They learn important social skills, such as empathy.
  • Dramatic play teaches conflict resolution: Both unstructured and structured dramatic play offer teachable moments about conflict resolution. Inevitably, disagreements will naturally arise during dramatic play, which offers children a chance to work through their differences and arrange a compromise. It also encourages children to consider alternate perspectives as they recognize various roles of people in their lives and communities.
  • Language development. Dramatic play also encourages expressive language. Children are motivated to convey their wishes to others and speak from the perspective of their pretend roles. In fact, it is often through dramatic play that shy or withdrawn children first begin to express themselves through language.
  • Use of symbols. Dramatic play furthers an understanding of symbols. For example, a doll becomes a symbol for a baby. A slip of paper may become money. Opportunities to create and use symbols help children to utilize other symbols, like letters and numbers.
  • Sort out fantasy and reality. Dramatic play also allows children to differentiate between real and pretend. This is readily apparent when observing children using exaggerated voices to signal that they are playing their roles or in the child that announces, “It’s just pretend.” It may seem as though a child who has spent several hours engaged in dramatic play has just been “playing around” and has nothing concrete to show for it. On the contrary, the kind of play where a child takes on a role, and learns to interact from within that role, is very valuable to her development.
  • Dramatic play supports math and literacy: Dramatic play provides the perfect play setting for children to interact with functional math and print. Consider the children who is playing server at a restaurant. He will interact with both print and numbers as he takes orders, fills them and then rings up the total owed for the meal.



There are so many important benefits of dramatic play, the more important it to encourage it whenever possible! And it’s simple to do because kids naturally gravitate toward it!

Dramatic play areas are often sadly lacking. We are all busy, but a thoughtfully arranged, well-resourced and set-up dramatic play area evokes rich dramatic play. This is important because we know dramatic play helps children to explore aspects of their identity through role play. Children who fully engage in intriguing play activities require less adult intervention and are less likely to display inappropriate behaviors.

It is a great practice to reserve a space in your FDC for the dramatic play area, where children always can find a different set. Based on the children’s interests the set can change every few weeks offering children a place for dramatic play.

The set has to be the most realistic possible, and you can include photos and real elements to help you with the decoration. For example, instead to offer only a kitchen  to the children you could create a restaurant with:

  • a table and chairs
  • a menu (literacy)
  • tools for the kitchen
  • plates, cutlery, cups
  • a vase with flowers
  • a notebook to take note of the order (literacy)
  • pretending money (numeracy)


Some ideas for your dramatic corner:

  • Airplane
  • Airport
  • Animal shelter
  • Aquarium
  • Art gallery
  • Artist’s studio
  • Astronaut
  • Author’s office
  • Bakery
  • Barnyard
  • Beach
  • Beauty shop
  • Bedroom
  • Birthday party
  • Book Store
  • Buried treasure/pirate
  • Bus or train
  • Camping
  • Candy shop
  • Car wash
  • Castle
  • Chinese restaurant
  • Christmas
  • Circus
  • Clown show
  • Construction
  • Covered wagon
  • Cowboys
  • Daddy shaving
  • Dancer
  • Dishwashing
  • Dress-up
  • Drive in
  • Easter bunny egg painting studio
  • Exercise club
  • Fairy tale land
  • Farm
  • Fast food
  • Film maker
  • Fire station
  • Fishing
  • Fix-it shop
  • Flower store
  • Garage
  • Gardening
  • Gas station
  • Getting ready in the morning
  • Gift wrapping
  • Grandma and grandpa
  • Grocery store
  • Hair salon
  • Halloween/costume shop
  • Haunted House
  • Hospital
  • Hot air balloon
  • House painters
  • Housecleaning
  • Ice cream truck
  • Ice-cream shop
  • Igloo
  • Jewelry making
  • Kitchen
  • Landscaper/yard work
  • Laundry
  • Library
  • Log cabin
  • Long house
  • Magic
  • Magic carpet
  • Make-up
  • Mall
  • Mermaid land
  • Movie Set
  • Movie theater
  • Museum
  • Newspaper office
  • Night and day
  • Nursery
  • Nursery rhymes play
  • Ocean
  • Office
  • Outer space
  • Palentologist
  • Parade
  • Park
  • Pet store
  • Photographer
  • Picnic
  • Pirates/buried treasure
  • Pizza parlor
  • Planetarium/observatory
  • Playing house
  • Police station
  • Post office
  • Puppet maker
  • Puppet show
  • Rainforest/jungle
  • Ranch
  • Ranger station
  • Recording studio
  • Research lab
  • Restaurant
  • Rock museum
  • Rocket
  • Radio station
  • Safari
  • Sailing/boats
  • Santa’s workshop
  • School
  • School bus
  • Shadow puppets
  • Shoe repair
  • Show store
  • Sidewalk art sale
  • Sleigh
  • Soda fountain
  • Space station
  • Storyteller
  • Submarine
  • Talent show
  • Tea party
  • Theater
  • Time machine
  • Toy store
  • Travel agency
  • Treasure island
  • T.V. station
  • Under the sea
  • Voting
  • Veterinarian’s office
  • Wash day
  • Weather station/weather forecast
  • Western day
  • Winter wonderland
  • Zoo




Outcome 1: Children have a strong sense of identity.
Children develop knowledgeable and confident self-identities
Standard 3.2 The environment is inclusive, promotes competence, independent exploration and learning through play
11 July, 2017

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