Dramatic Play in Early Childhood

Dramatic Play at Home

The last few posts here have been about dramatic play in early childhood classrooms. But dramatic play is absolutely NOT limited to school! Actually, one of the first and most important places where children begin to experiment with and initiate pretend play is at home.


While early childhood education programs may be an important part of the development of children, remember that they spend much of their first few years at home with their families. This is the environment many children will feel the most comfortable in. For these reasons, it is important to create a positive pretend play atmosphere at home and help children engage in these kinds of play experiences.


Parents, bringing dramatic play into your child’s daily play at home is actually quite simple and fun! Just as with schools, the first step is to make sure your child has enough open-ended and engaging materials to play with. And you don’t have to spend a lot of money on these toys. Everyday household items and old clothes for dress-up are great additions to children’s pretend play experiences. It is also important to let your children experiment with dramatic play, to practice different roles and situations. And of course, why not join in on the fun?! As mentioned in previous posts, there are many advantages to dramatic play in any environment. When parents interact with their children in pretend play scenarios, you get to see those advantages right in front of you and help further your children’s development and learning.


Maybe you are have already integrated dramatic play into your home well and are now just looking for some more ideas. Or maybe you are not sure about pretend play at home yet. No matter, as long as you are giving your children opportunities to explore and play, know that you are absolutely on the right track!


In order to help you get a better sense of dramatic play at home, here is a list of the top ten ways to enhance home-based make-believe play. The list comes from best-child-toys.com, a Texas-based website that describes itself as a “one-stop place for parents looking for guidance to select toys and games”. Despite the URL sounding like a toy company looking to sell products, this website has nothing for sale, but instead just provides suggestions and ideas about play and toys.


First, be your child’s playmates — this is most effective when your children are young. However, let your child be in charge.

Second, if your child is older (more than 4 years of age), arrange a play date so that they can support each other’s dramatic play.

Third, play along if your child creates an imaginative playmate. Usually this playmate has a character which complements theirs. However, draw a line and be firm when your child starts to do something ‘naughty’ and blame this on her imaginative friend.

Fourth, do not intervene with your child’s play. Let their imagination flow.

Fifth, do not interrupt the play even when it’s time for your ‘child-turned-caveman’ to have lunch. Your child can always have lunch in his ‘cave’.

Sixth, provide a space in your home for imaginative play even if this means that your home will not look like a ‘designer home’ for a while. For instance, let your child transform the dining room table into a cave, or let her connect all the coffee and side tables and transform them into a tunnel.

Seventh, read a lot to your children and take them to as many places as you can. After reading, ask stimulating questions to your child, for instance, “What would you do if you were a …..?”. These will provide them with more experience more ideas for pretend play.

Eighth, when searching for a preschool for your child, investigate whether the preschool will support imaginative play.  

Ninth, for older children, consider involving them in theatrical productions or puppet movies.

Tenth, provide your children with many toys which support imaginative play.

The best advice I can give is to not worry about the details of bringing dramatic play experiences into your home. Look at the big picture: does your child have the freedom, space, and materials to play pretend? And how can you continue to encourage this type of play? This top ten list is a great way to look at the big picture of dramatic play at home. After all, remember that pretend play is all a form of play before all else.



Tips to enhance dramatic play. (2007). Retrieved October 24, 2008, from http://www.best-child-toys.com/dramatic-play.html


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