In our virtual storytimes this week, we talked a little bit about our essential workers, from grocery store employees to mail carriers to healthcare workers. You can honor them by encouraging your children to take on these roles in dramatic play!
You’ve probably heard that play is a child’s work. It’s true! Dramatic play helps children:
- Learn and use new vocabulary as they tell their “story” that they’re playing
- Practice conversation as they role play with you or other children (or themselves!)
- Use props to represent other objects (for example, using a banana as a phone), which is a sign of a developing brain - and developing imagination!
- Recognize letters or numbers written on objects (“environmental print” in the world around them, on signs, menus, toys)
There are so many other benefits to dramatic play for your child’s socio-emotional health, but these are just a few examples of how it also contributes to pre-literacy skills. Talk with your child (and let them talk to you) as you role play about our essential community workers. Even if you, the adult, join in the role playing, let your child direct what happens, and how it happens - even if it doesn’t make much sense!
A few ideas to get started:
- Grab an empty cereal box, a can of peas, and some toy fruit to sort and shelve them in your “grocery store” (even if that’s just the corner of your child’s room). Ask your child to make a grocery list (even if it’s just squiggles!) and then pick out the groceries they want. “Beep” them across a (pretend) scanner as you check out, and bag them in a reusable bag. Let your child play the role of the grocery worker, then the customer.
- Make a postal sorting center. Use colored paper or markers to designate each letter a color, and use the same colors to make mailboxes. They can be an old shoebox, a folded piece of paper stapled at the edges (like those old Valentine mailboxes you made in elementary school!), or something more elaborate. If you don’t have old envelopes lying around, the “letters” can be flat paper, like postcards, or simply folded without envelopes.
Make a few color-coded letters for each mailbox, then have your child sort the mail by color. Once it’s sorted into piles, they can deliver mail to the matching “address” (folder/box). If you have a slightly older child, use numbers, letters or sight words to label the envelopes and mailboxes. Try matching lowercase letters on the envelopes to uppercase letters on the mailbox for added literacy practice!
Bonus: Leave out crayons and paper so your child can add to the pile of mail if they want to. They can practice writing addresses (remember, scribbling is OK!) or use a sticker for a stamp.
- Give a doll a checkup, complete with checking their temperature, listening to their heartbeat, and wrapping up a hurt leg. Don’t have a doctor’s kit? No problem! Use other toys as props to stand in for the real thing (see note above). Can’t you see a scarf draped around the neck filling in for a stethoscope - or being wrapped around a leg for a cast? You can demonstrate using different kinds of objects, then see what your child comes up with when left to their own devices!
Although these ideas are for ways to play with your child, you can help set them up so your little one can also play independently. You might be surprised at how much conversation goes on anyway!