Play, as one of the most important parts of early childhood development, is multifaceted. Indeed, infants benefit emotionally, psychologically, socially, intellectually and physically. Such imaginative play allows children the space to emulate and imitate what they observe in the world around them by embodying different people or characters’ careers, emotions, experiences and vocabularies. This type of imaginative play-activity is referred to as dramatic play, and allows children to develop problem-solving abilities and to gain new knowledge.

Through dramatic play, infants develop gross motor skills by arranging the play environment to their liking – for example by moving tables and chairs around. They also sharpen their fine motor skills by making use of and manipulating specific objects and accessories – such as clothes, dolls, toys and books. There are various aspects that contribute to enriching the dramatic play experience

Useful equipment

Certain materials and pieces of furniture are particularly useful for the dramatic play environment, and are used by many professional early education groups. Such equipment includes items like toy fridges, stoves, ovens, sinks, counters, pots, pans, plates, tables, cash register(s), chairs, irons and ironing boards, appliances, mirrors, telephones, play food, dress-up clothes, shoes and accessories, dolls, doll accessories and furniture, puppets and puppet theatres. Of course, these are just examples, and there are various other pieces that assist children to construct scenes for dramatic play.

The educator’s part in dramatic play

The role of the teacher or supervisor in early education environments is critical. A dramatic play environment could have all the equipment in the world, but the most important entity in the classroom is the teacher him or herself. Teachers are pivotal for a host of reasons.

Firstly, teachers ensure the physical safety of infants by supervising activities, avoiding potential hazards and reacting appropriately in an emergency. Secondly, teachers provide emotional support for young students by fostering a healthy environment that focuses on politeness, consideration and kindness.

Yet another duty of the teacher is to help build infants’ senses of identity by encouraging suitable behaviour for specific developmental phases. This guidance helps to solidify children’s senses of self at this critical stage in their lives. Educators are also responsible for establishing feelings of inclusion, affiliation, cooperation and belonging. This develops resilience so that children feel loved and worthy even in times of adversity.

Additionally, teachers give children the opportunity to be (somewhat) independent –  they can take small risks, so that they feel in control and capable, but the educator always maintains boundaries, so that no actual threat arises.  Lastly, educators assist children in feeling purposeful, and in establishing goals and objectives through dramatic play.

  • Social and emotional advantages

Dramatic play is incredibly important for development of social and emotional skills. When children are in an environment in which they feel secure and at ease, they are able to express themselves and their worries or troubles through play; thus, it becomes a healthy outlet. Moreover, the process of creating, compromising and adapting in dramatic play leaves children feeling proud and triumphant about what they have managed to achieve. Additionally, since there is no ‘right or wrong’ with regard to how these activities play out, there is no potential failure. Instead, dramatic play allows infants to move and develop at their own pace.