Dramatic Play


They say that imitation is one of the best compliments.  I found this so true after my second child was born.  To say that she was colic was a complete understatement.  She was born yelling and honestly didn’t really stop until she was about one.  After her first hospital bath, the nurse brought her back to me screaming of course, and replied, “Good Luck!”  Oh, the memories!  So my oldest spent lots of time mimicking me being a mommy.  She would sit next to me on the couch, breastfeeding her babies.  Everyone of her ‘babies’ still has Desitin smeared all over their bottoms.  (If anyone has a tip for removing diaper cream from plush, please send it my way!)  She would put her babies over her shoulder and follow me around the house, “shushing” and bouncing to get our babies to fall asleep.

To this day she is still so interested in doing everything her mommy does.  I mentioned in the past that I have a strong infatuation with Ebay.  My kids have watched me get my items ready, take the digital picture, package the item up, get it ready to post and ship.  They’ve spent hours with me at the post office entertaining themselves and the postal workers as they try to beat the world record for most Priority Mail Labels stuck to themselves.  I often see her get some of her baby doll clothes, wrap them up, and put them in some sort of packing.  I didn’t know the extent of her observation skills until I came home after a small night out with friends.  Awaiting me in the entry way was this:

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Here are all her little Ebay packages waiting to go to the post office.  The next day, she brought them over to me and said, “Let’s see what Mr. Paul (our letter carrier) brought us today!”  She proceeded to open her packages with the same enthusiasm as one could imagine on Christmas morning!  I love her! 

 

 

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After another large toy recall, I just have to say, ‘Stop buying cheap toys!’  First came the Thomas recall.  One of my friends sent back over 15 trains and accessories.  Then came the Dora and Sesame Street recall.  Now over 9 million toys recalled from Mattel aka Fisher Price.  What more can we do to keep our kids safe?  My answer, buy safe, natural, age appropriate toys for our precious babies. 

When picking out toys, try to imagine what they will do with it. 

  • Does it invite purposeful activity? 
  • Does it promote decision making?
  • Does it spark imagination?
  • For how long will they play with it?
  • Will it encourage exploration?
  • Will the child spend lots of time with it?

Imagination is a wonderful tool that we have, but it cannot be created out of nothing.  Creative imagination is based on, and directly related to, the quality of experiences in the world.  A rich imagination enables one to picture a solution and work toward it, such as solving a puzzle.  The more experiences that a child has with real information, purposeful activity, and problem solving, the more useful, creative, and effective their imagination will become.

Toys for children should invite play and encourage exploration.

  • Rattles and other manipulative toys

  • Nesting boxes

  • Peg Boards

  • Realistic mobiles with different colors and grips

  • Blocks 

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Eye-hand coordination is developed when it is obvious, visually, that a toy goes together in a certain way.  One example of this is a cube fits into a square hole and a sphere fits into a round hole.  It is no small thing for a child to learn to direct her muscles to do what her eyes see should be done.  This kind of challeging activity will help the child develop coordination and concentration.  All of these things must be considered when selecting toys during this important developmental stage.

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Puzzles promote visual discrimination and eye-hand control.  The use of puzzles calls for a special finger and hand grip called the pincer grip that will prepare the child for writing and small muscle activities while it solves the child’s need to think and problem solve.  Children can develop many useful skills through early experiences with puzzles.  Puzzles are self correcting toys that help the child problem solve for themself.  This is a high level mental activity.   Puzzle help children learn to bring the use of the body under control of will, to concentrate, to make a plan, follow a train of thought, and to repeat and master.  This is the foundation and start of creativity.  

Toys such as dolls and blocks are an open ended toy.  Children learn to apply these same skills and to express and process their unique mental information.  Children are able to process and re-live experiences while playing with dolls or stuffed animals.  The quality and variety of these open ended, imaginative play depends on the quality and variety of the child’s real world experiences.  

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A sparse environment of carefully chosen materials calls the child to work play.  A crowded and chaotic environment can cause stress and drain a child’s energy.  Natural materials are always safer and more pleasing than plasitc.  Before the age of six, a child learn from direct contact with their environment, by means of the senses, through doing and movement.  The child literally absorbs the environment.  The toys and materials in the home should promote self-respect and respect for others and the environment.  Some links for safe, high quality toys for your children:

www.unclegoose.com

www.habausa.com

www.briotoys.com

www.oompa.com

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Not a day goes by that my 3 year old is not in character.  Dramatic Play is the one area where all of her knowledge is in use.  She learns by imagining and doing.  The process of pretending builds skills in many essential developmental areas.  It is believed that dramatic play helps kids not only develop a skill, but learn how to use it in life.

Pretending Builds Social and Emotional Skills
When children engage in pretend (or dramatic) play, They are actively experimenting with the social and emotional roles of life. Through cooperative play, they learn how to take turns, share responsibility, and creatively problem-solve. When  children pretend to be different characters, they have the experience of “walking in someone else’s shoes,” which helps teach the important moral development skill of empathy.

Pretending Builds Language Skills
I love listening to my daughter have her personal conversations with herself and others.  I usually hear some words and phrases I never thought she knew!  Pretending helps her understand the power of language. In addition, by pretend playing with others, she learns that words give her the means to reenact a story or organize play. This process helps her to make the connection between spoken and written language — a skill that will later help her learn to read.  She often likes to pretend to do the things that I do around the house.  So I keep a collection of magazines, books, paper, and pencils with her play props and dress up clothes. She uses pre-reading and pre-writing skills to mimic real-life situations. For example, she can “read” to her dolls and stuffed toys, “write” letters, make lists, and even pretend to take telephone messages with a toy phone!  She especially loves to help with the grocery list, which I will discuss another time.
 

Pretending Builds Thinking Skills
Pretend play provides your child with a variety of problems to solve.  Pretending promotes abstract knowledge and thinking.  The ability to use a prop (such as a block) as a symbol for something else (such as a phone) is a high-level thinking skill. Eventually it will enable your child to recognize that numbers represent quantities of things, and that combinations of letters represent the words she speaks, hears, and reads.

Nurture the Imagination
Consider creating a prop box or corner filled with objects to spark a fantasy world. You might include:

  • Large plastic crates, cardboard blocks, or a large, empty box for creating a “home”
  • Old clothes, shoes, backpacks, hats
  • Old telephones, phone books, magazines
  • Cooking utensils, dishes, plastic food containers, table napkins, silk flowers
  • Stuffed animals and dolls of all sizes
  • Fabric pieces, blankets, or old sheets for making costumes or a fort
  • Postcards, used plane tickets, foreign coins, and photos for a pretend vacation trip
  • Writing materials for taking phone messages, leaving notes, and making shopping list

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