The role of role play

Role playing with your child is one of the most effective ways of helping them learn, communicate and bond with you, says a leading child psychologist.

Babies and children learn best if they are involved in everyday activities with their primary carer or in role play, says a leading child psychologist.
Dr Amanda Gummer says toys that encourage role play develop communication and social skills if used in games with friends or siblings.
Role play around cooking, for instance, can help to reinforce messages about healthy eating.
Role play around adult activities such as cleaning and shopping can help validate children and help them bond with their parents, says Dr Gummer, since children’s development is “driven by the fact that young children always want to seem more grown up than they are”.
She adds: “Many of the life skills that children need to develop in order to live successfully as an independent adult are not taught at school so as well as bonding with their children, increasing imagination and communication skills, parents who facilitate role play are helping them to learn skills that will benefit them in later life.”
She suggest five ways to encourage positive role play:

1.    Make it relevant to an activity that you’re doing or have done recently.

2.    Help your child if he/she is stuck for ideas at the start but then stand back and let them direct the play.  Be willing to take directions about the role-play without trying to change them or suggest your own ideas.

3.    Be enthusiastic about your child’s ideas and praise them for their imagination.

4.    Ask open-ended questions to encourage the progression of play – (e.g. ‘what shall we do with this baking tray?’ rather than ‘shall I put the baking tray in the oven?’).

5.    Be creative with equipment – a saucepan doesn’t have to only be used as a saucepan, it can be a helmet or a drum or anything else that a child wants it to be.

Dr. Amanda Gummer is one of Working Mums’ childcare experts. If you have a question on childcare, click on any of the questions on the Ask the Expert page and fill in the post a question box.

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