The Benefits Of Role Play For Young Children

September 6, 2012 Published by

Young children spend a lot of time at home whilst the primary carer is engaged in everyday activities such as shopping, cleaning or cooking. Children will learn from watching these activities being done, but they will learn so much more and so much quicker if they are able to get involved as well.

This is not always possible or practical (it may be too dangerous, or create a lot of mess!) so it is important to help children understand adult behaviour and activities in a safe, age-appropriate way, and role play is one of the most powerful ways of achieving this. Many toys provide a brilliant opportunity for children to model their carer’s behaviour with props that are appropriate for children (safe, smaller, lighter, and sometimes with exaggerated or simplified features) of various ages and abilities in order to reap the benefits of role play.71NVaNbl7SL._SL1286_

Children have to follow rules a lot so, when possible, it is wonderful for them to be able to create their own play. 

There is a place for all types of toys, but in contrast to highly prescriptive products (those with rules or instructions), toys that act as props for a child’s own game help develop creativity and imagination. Toys that encourage role play also develop communication and social skills if playing with friends or siblings. Parents can also learn a great deal about their child by allowing their child to dictate the game.


Role play with toy food, play kitchens and utensils will facilitate discussion about food and increase children’s understanding of the importance of a balanced diet.

Good-Toy-Guide_693_Morphy-Richards-Kitchen-Set1Parenting has become a real minefield. The more we understand, the more pressure there is to ‘do the right thing’ for your children. Food and health is an area of particular stress for parents today. The well-documented rise in childhood obesity has been linked to a number of factors, including sedentary lifestyles and fast food. On the other hand, anorexia is also a growing problem and seems to be affecting children at younger and younger ages.

Children will copy their carer’s approach to cooking. Role play with toy food, play kitchens and utensils will facilitate discussion about food and increase children’s understanding of the importance of a balanced diet. Even very young children can pretend to cut with play knives and prepare pieces of play food. By doing this they can explore their food and develop a healthy, balanced attitude towards nutrition.

Children’s development is driven by the fact that young children always want to seem more grown up than they are.Good-Toy-Guide_726_Little-Love-3-in-1-Pushchair2

By enabling them to feel grown up by modelling everyday adult behaviours (cleaning, laundry, shopping, DIY, looking after the children etc) parents are validating their children and bonding with them. Role play toys which encourage these activities are incredibly valuable and should not be overlooked in favour of the latest high-tech toys. Many of the life skills that children need todevelop in order to live successfully as an independent adult are not taught at school so as well as bonding with their children, increasing imagination and communication skills, parents who facilitate role play are helping them to learn skills that will benefit them in later life.


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This post was written by Dr Amanda Gummer

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