Children learn through play. Their joy in trying things out and discovering is the secret of their often rapid and impressive development. Role plays are an essential part of children’s learning. They lead children step by step in an imaginative way into the world of adults.
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Role Plays Are An Important Developmental Step
Role-playing is as much a part of child development as learning to walk or language acquisition. Around the age of three, children’s imagination blossoms and opens the door to a new world. Now children succeed in slipping into other roles through play. They become superheroes, princesses, pirates, doctors, doll moms, robber captains, astronauts and much more. As they grow older, the themes that are addressed in role-playing games change. To a certain extent, they adapt to the child’s stage of development and thus clearly show how much a child’s social skills develop during this phase.
Up to about the age of six, role plays are an important companion on the way to the adult world. As children enter elementary school age, they are gradually replaced by other play concepts, but some children continue to enjoy distinct role plays well beyond that age.
In imaginative play, children process impressions that particularly occupy them at the moment and sometimes also frighten them. For parents, this aspect can be very valuable, because it gives very clear and often surprising insights into the emotional life of the child and reveals how children perceive the outside world. If we look and listen very closely, we can often learn more about our children than they would like to reveal to us in direct contact.
Creating Space For Imagination And Social Interaction
If parents notice that their child is becoming increasingly interested in role play and is giving free rein to his or her imagination, this is a positive sign. An important developmental phase has begun and the next few years will bring many interesting changes. Parents can experience this exciting time very intensively with their child by giving him or her space for imaginative play and social interaction.
Children often take great pleasure in play tents, which can serve as the basis for the most interesting play ideas. Play tents come in different shapes and sizes. They can already be designed according to thematic play ideas or be kept neutral. Here, parents should follow their child’s preferences. Of course, a few blankets and a large cardboard box are also enough to give the game a home. In no time at all, the cardboard box can be transformed into a pirate ship, a doll mommy’s first own household, a princess’s castle, a robber’s den or a spaceship that flies off into space.
Their own little kingdom is not only the starting point for an imaginative journey, but also a first little space for privacy and individual separation. Parents should only create initial possibilities and then let the child try things out for himself. The fewer the guidelines, the greater the potential from which children can draw with their own ideas. If the child is allowed to reach into mom’s closet, jewelry box, makeup box or dress-up box for carnival, there’s nothing standing in the way of an exciting adventure.
This also means getting involved again and again in the child’s new role-playing ideas and, every now and then, slipping into one role or another yourself that the little ones have assigned to mom or dad in their play. Social interaction is at the heart of children’s role play, and especially in the early stages of this journey of discovery, parents are often still the preferred play partners.
The most important support parents can give their children in this developmental phase, however, is plenty of room to develop freely and live out their blossoming imaginations. There should be as few guidelines and restrictions as possible during play. A child’s imagination usually needs very little to create a world full of ideas and play opportunities.
This Is Why Children Need Role-playing Games
Role-playing games are much more than just an expression of a child’s imagination. They are integral to the development of important social skills:
- In role plays, the world of adults is imitated. This paves the way to this world, which is often still incomprehensible to children but nevertheless fascinating and therefore worthwhile. One of the most popular role-playing games for most children is therefore the classic “father – mother – child”, which has had a firm place among children’s play concepts for generations.
- Role-playing encourages empathy in children. They learn to empathize with other roles and thus other perspectives and to develop understanding for other people.
- Through role-play, children learn to fit into social contexts and take their place in a group and situation. This requires the ability to compromise and the competence to come to an agreement with fellow players and to agree on applicable rules.
- Role plays promote self-confidence. Children develop their own ideas for games and learn to incorporate them into an overall context. To do this, they must simultaneously stand up to teammates and learn to give their own needs as much space as the needs of other people.
- When children take on a role, they learn important characteristics that come with that role. These can include social skills such as patience, frustration tolerance, consideration, perseverance, silence, or presenting themselves with confidence.
- Role-playing gives children the opportunity to face conflicts and fears, to become aware of them and to deal with them in a targeted way. In this way, children can better understand and process their feelings.
- When children devise their own play concepts and want to communicate them to their fellow players, this not only promotes the development and understanding of complex issues, but also the ability to express themselves linguistically and explain contexts. Role-playing games thus offer a wide range of cognitive development potential.
If parents regularly allow themselves some leisure time during this important developmental phase to immerse themselves in other worlds together with the child, they can create valuable foundations for social development and at the same time get to be a child themselves once again.