If you have ever listened in as your child engages in dramatic play, you know their imagined world is complex and exciting. Even when acting alone, children engaged in dramatic play—taking the role of an animal or a different person, dressing the part, moving differently and delivering lines from a script that exists only in their heads—are improving their social skills. Dramatic play provides a meaningful context in which children use their developing skills for authentic purposes.
An article in Pediatric Child Health goes so far as to describe dramatic play as “sociodramatic play,” because socializing is a vital part of every junior thespian’s performance. As the magazine says,
“Sociodramatic play is about negotiation and getting along with others, often overcoming different perspectives and backgrounds. It is what motivates and drives preschool exuberance and delight.”
All play is rehearsal for adult life, and sociodramatic play is practice for finding the right emotional response to a situation. When children make believe they are heroic or scared, they build narratives in their minds that guide their emotions.
Pre-literate children use print and symbolic writing in their sociodramatic play, building confidence toward actually learning to read. Children become storytellers, using language skills such as narrative, plot, dialogue and character. These lead to reading comprehension and fluency. Children may pick up and use a magazine or poster as a prop, without any understanding of the actual words but with a respect for the power of print. Soon, those same young actors are actually reading.
Hint: Read more on child development
An article in the New York Times linked the preschool classroom to today’s office. The skills learned by sociodramatic play feed the skills needed to be successful at work. More employment opportunities and greater pay go to those adult workers who have socializing and thinking skills, rather than just thinking skills. The preschool “work space” mirrors the grown-up office building because people gather in small groups, talk and negotiate, and solve problems.