Role Play is one of our favourite things to do at home. We have spent hours and hours as different characters and in different scenarios and to be honest that ability to disappear into a different world has definitely helped Isabel through some lengthy hospital stays. Role play helps to support children to work through unfamiliar situations such as visiting a hairdresser or a dentist for the first time. It can also help children to make sense of some emotionally difficult subjects and work through any anxieties they have. When Isabel was in the middle of her treatment she started role playing ‘doctors’. All of her friends are now very well versed in the language doctors use such as NG tubes, blood transfusions and lumber punctures to name a few.
Role play can be one of those things that people tend to shy away from as they think it needs to be all singing and dancing with lots of resources, but role play can also be very effective with just a few resources that you already have. Children love it when they get to use ‘real’ things just ensure items you provide are safe. The most important thing children need for a successful role play is a big imagination and an adult to support with the language at first.
Here are my top 5 quick and easy role play ideas…
- Tourist Office – Resources: A book shelf (somewhere to put the leaflets), a table, pens, post stick notes, notepads, a daily planner (days of the week written on paper)
With half term coming up this is a great one to do to plan days out. My girls collect leaflets from places like supermarkets & restaurants etc so we had a big collection of them. They love getting them out and looking at what the places offer. It is great for reading words as well as reading different formats like maps. I set the rules at the start that while it is a bit of fun planning days out for every day of the holiday we will only choose one to go on which works well. Key things I had to do at the start was to demonstrate how a tourist information office works we popped into our local one to have a look around and I played the role of the ‘guide’ at first then once the girls were confident they took over and were away.
2. Camping- Resources: large sheets, duvet covers, pegs/bull dog clips, clothes horse, play food, play cooking equipment, sticks, magazines
Who doesn’t love a den? We decided to take ours a step further and turn it into ‘camping’. This came from a conversation I was having with Isabel about camping, she didn’t remember us camping when she was little so we decided to recreate it in the lounge! We made our den and then added the accessories. We talked about the different ways we can cook when camping and the girls wanted a real campfire so we collected some sticks and built them into a fire. They spent a long time in this role play and went back to it again and again over a couple of days.
3. Hairdresser- Resources: table, chair, magazines, hair clips, hair brush, hair dryer/ straighteners (real or pretend), tea set, tea bags (real) play biscuits/ cake
This is another great one to do if your child is worried about a visit to the hairdresser, you can demonstrate what happens at each stage and show it as a positive, happy experience. I took the lead on this one at first and showed how you are welcomed and given magazines to read, then the hair wash, cups of tea and the styling of hair. We took it in turns to be the hairdresser and the customer until they were comfortable with the roles. I left it as an invitation to play for a couple of days and they returned to it plenty of times. Charlie also picked up some of the role and enjoyed being a hairdresser too.
4. Supermarket- Resources: play food, real food- fruit, tins, table, chair, till, money (real if safe), shopping bags, notebook, pencil
This has been such a popular role play and can be adapted in so many ways. We added babies and the pushchair to replicate going with children as well as adding a trolley to push around the isles. Again I took the lead at first because it was Megan & Charlie who started playing this. Megan absolutely loved it and was able to use some fantastic language while she was playing. We also had the added skill of writing a shopping list before shopping so for Megan this meant encouraging her emergent writing and for Isabel a good opportunity to work on her spellings.
5. Doctors- Resources: Doctors play kit, syringes (calpol ones work well), a bed made from blankets & a cushion
I couldn’t write a blog about role play without adding this one in as it is by far still the most popular one in our house. Isabel has a friend who also loves doctors role play and whenever they have a play date they can always be found operating on each other! Isabel’s current obsession is to have fluids, bloods and platelets. We tried making them using sandwich bags and water but they leaked so we are experimenting with different materials so she can do transfusions too. I think it is important to have an adult to play the role as the patient and the doctor so the children can explore some of the different treatments that they may experience. The smallest thing like opening your mouth so a doctor can look at your throat can be very scary for a child so being able to play it in a safe place is very beneficial as well as having a trusted adult to explore this with.
What are your favourite role play experiences to do with your children? As always enjoy them and have fun 🙂