Role play – the key to learning

Have you ever been astonished by the accuracy of young children imitating adults?

Ever seen the facial contortions of a little boy as he uses a comb to ‘shave’ his chin, or a little girl as she applies imaginary make-up?

We all delight in overhearing a young child’s pretend phone conversations, as they mimic our words and intonations, and we watch, fascinated, as they copy us in our domestic tasks.  And have you ever also asked ‘how did s/he know how to do that, as in role play, there is some magic at work, which somehow enables children to rise up to and beyond the challenge, so that they instinctively ‘know’ what to do, even if they may not have actually witnessed it themselves.

The Russian psychologist, Lev Vygotsky, who was born in 1896, and whose work is undergoing a dramatic revival in Vygotsky-inspired nurseries has explained this ‘magic’.  He said that in role play, ‘the child is always behaving beyond his age, above his usual everyday behaviour; in play, he is, as it were, a head above himself’.

As parents and teachers, we can inspire children to be ‘heads above themselves’ by providing them with the inspiration to role play.  The key to this is, of course, visualisation.  Children must see adult role models, for example, writing, so they know exactly in detail, why, when, where and how grown-ups write.  They can then take this ‘on board’ and developmentally ‘run’ with it, in their own way.  Also, children love to see other children role playing and are hugely inspired.

This morning, Child’s Eye Media’s Young Writers’ Role Play Pack won a gold award in the Practical Pre-School Awards.  The Pack enables young children to see for themselves how police officers, firefighters, doctors and nurses, car rescuers, vets, dentists, recyclers and postal workers write as part of their work, and also, young children emulating them in role play.  A Reception teacher in Suffolk has reported that one boy who has never wanted to put pencil to paper, watched the Police film in the Pack, and immediately picked up a clipboard to write his ‘investigation’!

If you’re looking for a spot-on, innovative resource which will really inspire young boys –  and girls- to write, do check out

About Linda Mort | Early Years Learning

Early Years Learning is a blog by Linda Mort, a published early years specialist and Educational Director at Child's Eye Media.
This entry was posted in Creative learning, Literacy, Outdoor learning, Outdoor play, Teaching children to read, Writing through role-play and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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