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Parent Guide: The importance of role play activities for under 5s

Child role playing as dinosaurs

We all know children love to role play, whether it’s pretending to be a doctor, an astronaut or a postman, it brings endless joy and fun during their playtime.

But what exactly is role play and how does it help your little ones’ development? We’ll explore that and so much more below!

Let's dive in to explore the importance of role play activities for under 5s!

What is role play?

Role play, also known as imaginative or pretend play is an important activity for young children.

Little ones will take on roles and act out scenes and different types of characters. Lots of nurseries and preschools will have dressing-up and prop corners to help encourage this kind of play.

Your little one may also role play using toys like dolls, farm animals or figures. These are called small-world toys and just means that your little one is creating and controlling the world rather than immersing themselves in it (think Sims).

Child in fireman costume

What are the benefits?

This type of play has a wide range of benefits. Let’s explore some of these now!

Language skills

Your little one will use language for a variety of situations, extending their vocabulary. For instance, they may take the role of a shopper and pretend to write a shopping list as well as ask politely for things.

They may then change the backdrop and be at a train station instead, helping them practice a different set of vocabulary.

Working as a team

Children learn cooperation with others through role play activities. Your little one is likely to take turns, agree on what will happen next and learn to negotiate. This kind of socialisation can be really helpful to help children learn about being with others.

Gaining confidence

Children gain confidence from role play by practising life skills like dressing as well as organising their own playtime. This means they’re making their own decisions and considering any consequences.

Being able to make decisions is particularly important as it allows children to feel a sense of control and responsibility which will help them grow in confidence.

Children pirate role play

Supporting your little one at home

Role play doesn’t have to be reserved for nursery; you can help nurture this at home.

By developing your own range of props at home you can nurture your little one’s natural curiosity to learn through play.

This doesn’t have to be anything expensive or ‘made for purpose’, simple things like a pair of shoes, a bag, an oversized t-shirt, and a big cardboard box can work wonders! Also, be ready to join in yourself as children sometimes enjoy having an adult playmate who they can direct.

Additional resources


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