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What We Can Learn Through Children’s Play!

As children play, they enter a world of their own. This is where their imagination can emerge, as they process how they view the world. It is through play children make sense of what they observe, hear, and experience.

Often when children role-play through dramatic play, they are unpacking how they view the world. This can be seen when children play games like family play, role playing schools etc. As they take on the role of the mother, father, or school teacher they are exploring in their minds and making sense of how they feel about the influential people in their lives. We can learn a lot through sitting back and observing a child’s play.

When we see a child involved in homely jobs for example: preparing food, doing household chores, looking after babies etc they are role playing how they see the adults in their lives caring for their homes. We also observe children role playing schools and taking on the teacher role and some children choosing to be students. As children role-play, they are also unpacking what happens when they go to school and making sense of their role in the classroom and expectations.

We can support this play by letting the children guide us, playing alongside the child but allowing them to lead the play. While the children play, we can gently guide them to talk about their emotions. For example, if they are playing schools and they are having to tell the children off, then we can ask “Does this happen when you visit your sister’s school”, “How does that make you feel?”

When given the chance to unpack their learning through play children can view others’ opinions, and we can guide this by asking the child “How do you think the teacher feels when children don’t listen?” Stepping into another role gives a child a new viewpoint, a new way to experience the world and a way to make sense of the roles of adults in their lives.

When playing families, we may observe a child playing a parent that goes to work, this could be unpacked through play and we could talk to the child about how they feel when their parent goes to work, we can discuss what the parent does at work and allow the child to see how the parent feels when they have to go to work and leave the family.

A child may observe her parents busy with household chores or caring for younger siblings, which can be demonstrated in play by the child taking on a mother or father role and role playing how they observe the parents at home, busy with chores. We can also unpack this play and discuss what jobs Mums and Dads must do to care for the children and the house. The child, through play, can explore their parents’ role in the family and unpack what it means to be a Mum or Dad.

While we see children absorbed in the fun world of dramatic play, we can sit back and observe them, take note of what they say, how they interact with each character in their game and have a glimpse into how they view the world and how they are making sense of it through play.

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