What is role play? The very name means that a game should be played by following the rules, a certain story and performing a given role. Role plays for the children are not just fun, but useful as well. Such plays develop a child’s creativity, teach children to communicate with each other and act collectively, following the plot helps them get self-disciplined and develop imagination while playing.
A child is trying to perform the actions of adults he sees in his daily life. From an early age a child is attracted by everything adults do, he tends to live a common life with them. He wants to do the same things and the same way. Tendency to imitate the elders is the basis of role plays when a child can act like an adult not truly but “for fun”. Particularity of such plays is that a child performs adult actions but in imaginary situations. Playing role plays a child usually plays the situations in which he is a mother, a father, a doctor, a hairdresser, etc., performs real everyday situations with toy characters (dolls, teddy bears, dogs, etc.). As a rule, everything a child sees around, what happens to him, everything he learns from books and children’s movies are reflected in a game.
Development of a role play is one of the main stages of child development in early childhood. Its importance in the mental development of a child is great, for it has an impact on all of its sides. Games are one of the important means of learning about the world and the social development of children: they learn about lots of adult activities, learn to understand the feelings and states of other people, empathize with them, acquire communication skills with peers and older children. Games contribute to enrichment of sensory experience of a child, to the development of visual-creative thinking, imagination, creativity, and language development. At the same time, a game is an easy and happy activity for children, keeps them in a good mood and brings them joy.
A child does not start playing role plays immediately but through several stages of development in early childhood. Basic elements of the game are being formed within the second year of life. A baby performs the first game actions with the help of an adult: brings a spoon to a doll’s mouth, combs its hair, lulls it, etc. At first, he plays with few toys, often with those that were shown by the mother or the grandmother to him. Gradually quantity of game objects is being enlarged, he performs the same actions with other toys and objects. Thus, if a one-year old toddler was putting to sleep only the doll that had been rocked by his mother, then, after a while, he starts doing the same action with the other toys he has. In this way, he starts performing general actions “like the mother.”
Over some time, number of game scenes is being increased. A baby becomes more and more interested in a game with toys, and he begins to play not only at the initiative of adults, but also on his own one. At this age, he manipulates primarily toys similar to real objects (for example, toy dishes, crib, toys from special sets for playing a hairdresser, a hospital, etc.). However, after year and a half a toddler can already perform some simple actions with objects with the help of an adult (e.g. feed a doll with a stick instead of a spoon, a cube instead of bread).
So, within the second year of life a toddler has an increasing interest in games with toys, he gladly imitates adult actions while playing, is able to play some game episodes by himself. But such an independent game of a child at this age is short in time, game actions are chaotic, their sequence is random. Therefore, an adult needs to participate at this stage of game development.
How to teach a child to play?
First of all, you should enrich your child’s life experience, from which he will draw ideas for his games. Attract his attention to adult activities, discuss and comment them (for example, “Granny is cooking delicious food”, “Mom is putting the baby to sleep”, “Dad is bathing the baby, walking with him” etc.)
Remember that your baby starts performing his first game activities imitating your adult game. It is not enough just to buy a doll and care items for it. Actions with these toys will remain at the level of simple manipulations for a very long time. Play different situations in front of your baby, show game activities with them. For example, put the doll on the chair and say to her, “Dolly, it’s time to eat. Here is a plate, here is a spoon. Let me feed you porridge.” Feed the doll and talk to it the way you talk to your son or daughter. Simultaneously involve your child in this game: ask for help to feed the doll, distribute game activities. You can say: “Judy, let’s feed Dolly together. I’ll give her porridge, and you give her tea in this cup.” Gradually add new game characters and objects: for example say, “Look, Kitty is sitting sad, she wants to eat. Let’s give her milk on a plate.”
Gradually expand a range of situations that can be displayed in a game. If the child is very young, these situations will be fragmented. The baby can ride the doll around in a stroller for a long time, or comb its hair endlessly, or bathe it in the tub getting stuck on the same action. Your task is to vary your baby’s game without interrupting it and connect to it as an equal partner. If you see your baby feeding the doll endlessly, ask him: “Maybe it’s time for Dolly to go to sleep? Where is her crib?” Thus, you will encourage your baby to do new actions.
Gradually add substitutive objects to a game, for example, use a stick instead of a spoon, a cube instead of bread, a ball instead of an apple, etc. This will help develop your child’s imagination.
Encourage your child’s initiative in a game. If he brings his toys to you and asks to play with them, always comply with his request.
Try to enrich the child’s play gently, do not break it. If you are responsible for a role play, try to organize it as a holistic situation, which shows a sequence of several real events and not as teaching separate game actions. Young children are not able to plan their activities. Their actions are motivated by situations and anything they find in their way: if it is a comb, they comb a doll’s hair; if it is an iron – start ironing everything on the table. Your baby will be quite satisfied with this game for a long time. However, you can offer him more complex patterns of the games from time to time, coordinating the way you play with your baby. For example: “Let’s cook soup at first, then feed the bear, and then put him to bed” or “It is time for Dolly to take a bath. Let’s wash her in the tub, then wipe her with the towel, then comb her hair, and then go for a walk with her.” If the baby agrees to play this way, help him to follow the action sequence. Do not ask him to always follow your instructions in any case.
Try to follow an important rule: do not turn a game into a lesson. Avoid instructive tone and comments. The baby masters a complex situation not right off. A game does not always go according to plan even in a young preschool age, and it is a chain of separate game actions.
When you offer your child to play, try to make the game interesting to him, so do play with passion. Often remember the game experience from your childhood, your worries during a game.
A role play is not just a manipulation toys mechanically, but, above all, an interaction between the characters. Animate dolls and animals together with your child: create names for them, ask them questions and answer instead of them, comment your actions and the actions of the characters. Involve your child in a conversation with the dolls, ask him questions on behalf of the dolls and animals, and encourage him to answer. If your baby is not able to speak yet, answer instead of him. Sometime later he will repeat your words and pronounce their own ones.