In the April 1 post, we discussed all of the amazing benefits of dramatic play. Dramatic play is SO critical to young children’s growth and development that I am going to recap one of the key benefits here:
There is documented research that demonstrates the high level of cognitive, social, and emotional benefits from children’s engagement in dramatic play.
Our goal is to help our children deepen their play experiences to engage in more complex play:
Plans elaborate themes
Play more than one role in the play scenario
Uses props symbolically (a block becomes a telephone, a pool noodle becomes a fire hose, a tree branch cut into 1/2 inch rounds become pancakes or cookie)
The play scenario takes play over multiple days
Incorporates the vocabulary of the scenario and incorporates ideas from books that have been read to him/her
When your child begins a play scenario and plays it over a couple of days (cooking in the kitchen, baking, grocery store, restaurant, vet, doctor, firefighter, traveling to space, taking care of babies, auto shop, hairdresser, school), begin to deepen the experience for him/her with additional props to help him/her delve into more complex play. Provide suggestions as you become a partner in the play but do not take over- let your child guide and lead you through the scenario.
Deepening Children’s Play by Adding Props
Ideas for additional props to add to expand the play
Encourage the child to take on the role of the engineer who designs the equipment for rehabilitation (crutches, walker, sling, cast) Provide the child with stuff from a recycle bin (boxes, oatmeal containers, cardboard tubes, lids) and allow him/her to design OR encourage the child to take on the role of the physical therapist or occupational therapist and add in props such as icepacks, heat pads, exercise ball, weights, step stool
Encourage the child to begin to take calls from drivers that are stranded on the road- that cannot get into the shop for repairs and add props such as a big box to make a tow truck, empty, clean gas can, play tools, appointment sheet for phone numbers, play cell phone
If the child likes to engage in a lot of pretend cooking expand the utensils available by adding chopsticks, tongs, materials for cake decorating, wok, pie pan: then observe and notice- what direction is the child taking the play, if he/she starts decorating cakes, then you can begin weaving in play about decorating for weddings or birthdays, taking orders and selling the cakes, etc. OR Remove all plastic play food and add vase gems, dice, plastic or foam alphabet letters, building blocks, wood cookies (tree branches cut into round disks), and have fun observing the child’s creativity as the items become all kinds of different food. (remember to add items that are appropriate for your child’s age and developmental level so that they do not become a choking hazard.)
journeyintoearlychildhood.com Expanding Children’s Play with Additional Props
Pour sand, dirt, or water from one container to another. How many small containers full of sand/water does it take to fill the big one? Can you pour it without spilling a drop?
3. Draw shapes, letters or numbers using a paintbrush and water on the garage door (large, vertical writing is great for both fine motor and gross- motor development. Tape paper on the garage wall to draw on.
4. Clean the sidewalk using a spray bottle and water.
5. Fill each section of an egg carton with dirt, make a small hole, and pinch 3 seeds to place them in the hole. Use a spray bottle filled with water to give the seeds a drink. Remember to spray the dirt and the growing plants with water each day.
Collect nuts, pebbles, and/or leaves and then sort them. How many ways can you sort the items you found?
Collect pinecones and snap off each piece. Design a picture out of them by laying them on the driveway or gluing them on paper.
Now more than ever, we need to use positive, precise language to help support the development and practice of positive social and emotional skills.
Remember- the child is still learning. We need to always be modeling, guiding and practicing the skills we want our children to display.
We can reframe the way we view behavior to look through a lens that all behavior is a form of communication or a need for skill fluency practice (need for the behavior to be explicitly taught with precise language and practiced multiple times in multiple situations).
We also reframe our requests to our children to specifically teach what we DO want students to be doing. We are teaching the correct behavior instead of giving attention to the incorrect behavior. This is challenging when we are upset. We cannot regulate our children if we are not regulated ourselves.
Walk away, take three deep breaths, and then reframe your request using direct language of specifically what you want your child to do.
REFRAME to the POSITIVE and/or to the PRECISE
Use walking feet to stay safe.
Use a quiet voice to be ready.
Don’t hit your brother.
Keep your hands to yourself.
Stop throwing your food.
Food stays on the plate or in your mouth.
Don’t look away and listen to me
Eyes are looking at me and ears are open for listening.
Be nice. (Too vague and abstract for young children. They need concrete rules.)
Say “thank you.”
Be kind. (Too vague and abstract for young children. They need concrete rules.)
You take a turn first and then your sister takes a turn.
Don’t grab it from your sister.
Choose a different toy. Your sister is playing with that. Ask your sister if you can play with it after her.