Dramatic play is one of the most valuable forms of play in children. Dramatic play is an opportunity for children to work out difficult feelings, such as fears and worries and to begin to understand the adult world. It involves taking on a role and engaging in imitative behavior. As children act out roles in the house area, they develop many new skills. They learn about themselves, their families, and society around them. Children learn from one another as they interact in socio-dramatic play. They learn to ask and answer questions and to work together to solve problems.
Through dramatic play, children can take on roles they fear and learn to control their anxieties. For example, a child who is worried about going to the doctor can pretend to be the doctor. By assuming the role of the doctor, he/she can feel “in charge” and act out his impressions of being a doctor. In this way the child gains some control over real fears. Children also learn to be flexible and cooperate with others by negotiating roles and playing together.
Like all areas of learning, pretend play is developmental in nature. Children move through stages in their play:
- Stage I:Imitative role play – in this stage of play, beginning as early as age one, children imitate people they know, using concrete materials.For example, a child may pick up a phone and pretend to talk on the phone like mommy or hold a doll and feed the baby.
- Stage II:Make-believe play – children use their imagination, using less concrete materials.For example, children can use a banana as a phone or a block for a baseball bath.Children also learn to use their imaginations to invent actions and situations.
- Stage III:Socio-dramatic play- it starts at the age of 3 or 4.Socio-dramatic play involves planning, assigning roles, and verbal interaction between the children.For example, one child chooses to be the teacher and the other the student, or one child can be a doctor and the other the patient.
“Puppets offer children two ways to express creativity
- making the puppet and
- making the puppet come to life.”(M. Mayesky, 1998).
Puppetry is a land of magic for children, a chance for make-believe and self-expression. Creativity is encouraged through the variety of puppets to make, from stick people figures to finger puppets and creatures made from socks, wooden spoons, paper boxes and tubes. Children learn to communicate through puppet play: they interact and lose inhibitions by communicating their own views of life situations. Some shy children may become quite verbal when the puppet does the talking. Young children believe the puppet is real whereas primary children pretend that the puppet is alive. Both age groups enjoy listening to a wonderful story presented by the teacher/puppeteer or use puppets to tell the story themselves.
As the children explore and use art materials to make puppets, they develop social, emotional, physical, cognitive, and language skills.
Social: Children will share and cooperate with others, and develop pro-social skills.
Emotional: Children will show pride and express pleasure in making puppets. They will experience the joy of playing and fantasizing.
Physical: Children will refine small muscle movements and eye-hand coordination.
Cognitive: Children will use imagination, creativity, and planning skills. They will learn problem-solving skills and abstract thinking.
Language: Children will talk about what they are doing and respond to questions about their creations as they engage in making puppets. They will expand vocabulary and communication skills by using puppets to retell stories.
Group time is the good opportunity to introduce puppets and use them with finger play, poems, songs, books, and flannel board stories.