Role play is an essential element of child development. Not only is it great fun, it helps develop children’s creativity, communication, confidence and problem-solving skills. By adopting the persona of made-up, real life or fictional characters, children can act out scenarios that enable them to learn and understand the world better. It helps them develop key social skills, too. In this post, we’ll look at the ways schools can help encourage pupils to participate in and benefit from role play.
1. No grown-ups, please
The most beneficial form of role play is that which is child-led. When children develop their own scenarios, they are likely to be more engaged in what they are doing. They will often bring to the role play their own ideas and thus explore the issues that they may be concerned about or which interest them the most.
Child-led role plays are most effective when pupils feel uninhibited. If they feel that teachers are listening in, it might restrict what they are saying. For this reason, it is always a good decision to monitor the action from a distance.
Perhaps the best location for role play is in the playground. Here children automatically know that free play is allowed and that staff are only there to ensure safety. With this in mind, they are more apt to get involved. Similarly, the playground provides the space for children to split off into groups where they can interact with others who they feel comfortable with – and this, too, gives greater scope for the creative mind to explore more freely.
2. Create zones in the playground
Children need space in which to carry our role play without interference from other activities which are taking place. One way to do this is to divide a playground into zones so that there is a range of clearly defined places for different activities.
In most well-designed playgrounds, children will typically want somewhere to play sports, a place for climbing or for an obstacle course, somewhere quiet, such as a nature area, and a place for role play and other creative activities.
Designing your playground layout can ensure that enough space is provided for each activity and that their location is in the safest area.
3. Provide pupils with props
Props and costumes are great for inspiring children to role play, and they don’t need to be an expensive purchase, either. In fact, most schools can usually put a collection together simply by asking parents to donate unwanted items: anything from old hats, bags, clothes, toys or anything else which can be used. If you need a place to keep the items, a simple, plastic, garden storage box is ideal for children to root through and replace items when finished. These are waterproof and so can be left outside.
4. Provide equipment that inspires role play
Another way to inspire children to start role play is to provide equipment that can spark their imagination. There is a wide selection of imaginary playground equipment which will encourage pupils to invent all sorts of imaginary worlds and create amazing scenarios to act out.
Take this tree trail thicket, inspired by the jungle. It puts children right in the heart of the action, giving them paths to follow and obstacles to conquer. It even has stepping stones in the style of ancient statues. It’s a great way to turn your playground into the set from Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider.
The thicket isn’t a standalone item, either, but just one of a range of products from our Wild Wood collection. You can embellish your forest themed role play area with crawl through logs, wigwams, forest play huts and slides in the shape of a tree.
Alternatively, you can use history to help with role play – ideal if its also part of the curriculum. Our Windsor Castle play tower provides the ideal inspiration to help children invent historical dramas. It’s also great fun with lots of challenges.
For ‘kitchen sink’ drama, where children can role play and explore everyday situations, try our selection of mud kitchens. These are great for younger children acting out parent-child domestic scenes whilst having fun cooking up mud pies at the same time.
Television can also be a great inspiration, so why not install a wooden train and let the children recreate the characters from Thomas the Tank Engine? There are all sorts of pieces of equipment you can install: magical distorting mirrors, shop kiosks, bridges, just to name a few.
5. Playground surfaces that inspire role play
It’s not just equipment that you can use to create an inspirational environment, you can also use playground markings too. This road way, for example, lets children play at being vehicle drivers. It can also teach them the basics of road safety.
Providing opportunities for children to participate in role play is a great way to help their development. Hopefully, this post will have shown you that the best way to do this is to give them the freedom to explore their ideas, a safe place to play, some helpful props and costumes, and a range of inspirational equipment. With these four things in place, you can easily provide the ideal environment for role play to take place.