Role Play Accelerates Learning
Role play accelerates learning when we understand the power of play. Small children learn most of what they know from watching influential adults and other people around them. They then use role play to practise, test and model these behaviours. All children have significant adults who they are more strongly attached to and these key people become their most important role models to mimic new behaviours. The more closely attached a child is to a significant person, the more easily they will learn from him/her and adopt new modelled behaviours.
In the home, young children will spend a lot of time observing adults engage in everyday domestic activities such as cleaning, shopping, cooking, laundry, communications and daily routines. Children will learn from observations but they will learn even more when they are directly involved.
Some of the activities are not realistic. They might be unsafe or not practical and the child’s physical skills might not completely match the task requirements. This is why play becomes a safe way for children to role play and try out these interesting and new things in a protected environment. Toys that mimic these environments and behaviours provide a great opportunity for children to model adult behaviour with objects that are appropriate for their physical size and abilities. These toy objects tend to be safe, smaller, lighter, and sometimes with simplified or exaggerated features to match various ages and abilities.
Toys that encourage role-play develop communication and social skills between friends and siblings. They act as props for a child’s game and help them develop creativity and imagination as well as problem solving skills. Children are often restricted by rules so, when possible, it is great for them to be able to create their own rules and play sequences. These benefits are even greater if children are playing in pairs, small groups or with an adult. Parents might be surprised what they can learn about their child by getting involved in play and allowing their child to determine the game.
Health and Nutrition
One of the challenges with parenting is the more we understand, the more we feel compelled to do the very best thing for our children. Food and health is an area of stress and a well-documented rise in child-hood obesity has been linked to many factors. Sedentary lifestyles and fast food are often discussed as key causes of health issues. In contrast, anorexia is also a significant and growing problem that is affecting children from an early age. It is a challenge for parents to find the best pathway to help their children grow into healthy adults.
We should know that children will copy our approach to cooking. Role-play with toy food, pretend kitchens and utensils will engage discussion about food and it can increase children’s understanding of the importance of a balanced diet and lifestyle. Even small children can pretend to cut food with play knives and prepare small pieces of play food. These activities can help children explore food habits and develop a healthy, balanced value of good nutrition.
Play with Adult Behaviours
Adult activities in play are a great way for children to learn. Children’s development is driven by a desire to grow up and experience increased independence. By enabling children to feel grown up by practicing everyday adult behaviours, parents are validating their children, their progress and bonding with them during the journey. Shopping, cleaning, fixing things and many other every day activities can be emulated by children. Role-play toys that support and encourage this are invaluable and should be balanced or prioritised in favour of the latest high-tech gadgets and toys we are encouraged to buy. Many life skills that children need as a grown adult are not taught at school. Bonding with children, increasing creativity, imagination and communication skills happen fastest through parents who facilitate role play. These parents are helping their children learn skills that will benefit them when they get older. Role play accelerates learning when encouraged and supported.
Some Great Tips to Encourage Positive Role-Play
- Make play similar or relevant to activities that you are doing or have done recently.
- Support and help your child if they are stuck for ideas at the beginning but then step back and let them direct the play.
- Take directions from your child about the role-play without trying to change them too much or suggest too many of your own ideas.
- Be enthusiastic about ideas then recognise and praise children for their imagination.
- Always ask open-ended questions to encourage the the play to progress – (e.g. ‘what shall we do with this box?’ rather than ‘shall I cut the box in half?’).
- Be creative with toys and other objects – a box doesn’t have to only be used as a box. A box can be a helmet or a drum or a castle or almost anything a child wants it to be.
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