Dramatic Play in Early Childhood

What Is Dramatic Play?

To start with, dramatic play is an important part of early childhood development! As the Center for Best Practices in Early Childhood states on its website, the essence of this type of play involves “the portrayal of life as seen from the actor’s view”. Thus, for young children dramatic play is a fun and authentic way for them to participate in and practice roles that they know on their level. Or to use the Center for best Practices in Early Childhood’s words, it “permits children to fit the reality of the world into their own interests and knowledge.” In doing so, children are able to problem solve, work through conflicts, socialize, gain realistic experiences, and make sense of their environment.

Now that we’ve laid out a technical definition for dramatic play, let’s look at the practical question: what does dramatic play look like? Since dramatic play is an umbrella term that refers to various kinds of play where children act out roles, there are many ways for kids to take part in this experience. Examples include:

  • Setting up a scene (such as a kitchen or store) and playing the roles (pretending to be a parent, worker, etc)
  • Using puppets or dolls to tell a story
  • Using everyday props and dress-up clothes to take on roles they’ve seen
  • playing with toys (such as dolls, cars/transportation toys, play animals) where the child uses them to act out roles or stories

The important thing to remember is that since dramatic play is all about allowing children to use their imagination to come up with ways to role-play and portray life experiences, the possibilities are literally endless! There are so many props and physical arrangements that can extend themselves to dramatic play with young children. In future postings, I will lend some specific ideas about toys and setups that can be used in home and at school.


Center for Best Practices in Early Childhood. (2002, September). Dramatic play allows children to express themselves. Retrieved October 9, 2008, from http://www.wiu.edu/thecenter/art/artexpress/draplay.html