Dramatic Play is absolutely one of our favorite centers at Play to Learn Preschool. Unfortunately, many parents and educators do not see the value in letting children play. I recently read an article describing the differences between direct instruction and play-based learning with young children. The benefits of play were clear, and yet there are so many preschool and kindergarten classrooms that "don't have time" to play.
We see the incredible benefits of play every day, especially in the dramatic play (or role play) center. I hope that by describing some of learning that takes place that more teachers and parents will be pleased to hear that their children "just" played at school.
VocabularyAirport, the 3-year-olds say things like, "I have to call the Travel Agent" and "This time I am going to be a Passenger." At the Grocery Store, the children become Clerks who stock the shelves or Cashiers who ring up the totals. When we worked on our Dinosaur Dig, words like Paleontologist, Photographer and Museum Specialist were being used with ease. These are all words that they have learned from dramatic play.
OrganizationCookie Shop or Medical Supplies in the Hospital) we label where they belong so that the students can find them and return them to their correct spot. Elementary teachers know that keeping things organized (supplies, mittens, desks!) is a constant struggle. Children who practice in preschool and kindergarten are much more likely to be successful later on.
Each one of our dramatic play centers incorporates reading and writing. At the Restaurant, customers read the menus and the waiters write down their orders. At the Airport, students write their name and seat number on official Play Air tickets. When they are taking care of the babies in our newborn Nursery, they write Daily Reports just like the ones that their preschool teachers write for them. They love that!
Cookie Shop, and the children stop at the bank to get money before they shop. At the Grocery Store, they weigh the produce on small scales. At the Hospital they weigh themselves on big scales! There are tape measures at the Dig Site so that our little paleontologists can measure the length of their fossil discoveries. The table at the Restaurant and the seats on the Airplane are all labeled for number recognition practice.
Sometimes I think that teachers are afraid to stand up for what they know to be best practices. We get caught up in thinking that more rigorous academics early on will lead to success in school. We forget that young children have incredible brains that have the remarkable ability to learn through play. When asked if children play in preschool and kindergarten, hopefully teachers and parents can confidently answer, "Yes, they do, and it's exactly what they need."
Have fun playing and learning with your children today.