Friday, December 30, 2011

Benefits of Dramatic Play

Elanna Yalow, PhD weighs in on the benefits of dramatic play:
As most early childhood teachers know, dramatic play is an extremely valuable part of the daily curriculum. Here are just some of the benefits of dramatic play:
  • Relief from emotional tension. Adults tend to cope with a traumatic event by retelling the event over and over. Children, however, tend to replay the event in their dramatic play. For example, if a child attends a funeral, she is likely to "play the funeral" afterward with friends, dolls, etc., as a way to come to terms with the event.
  • Children feel powerful. When children re-enact frightening experiences, they tend to put themselves in a position of power. They may choose to play the mommy or daddy, the most powerful people in their lives. In dramatic play, the child can control the events, and wishes can come true.
  • Use of social interaction skills. Dramatic play encourages children to put themselves in someone else's shoes. Such role-playing helps them to improve their ability to do this in real life. They learn important social skills, such as empathy.
  • Language development. Dramatic play also encourages expressive language. Children are motivated to convey their wishes to others and speak from the perspective of their pretend roles. In fact, it is often through dramatic play that shy or withdrawn children first begin to express themselves through language.
  • Use of symbols. Dramatic play furthers an understanding of symbols. For example, a doll becomes a symbol for a baby. A slip of paper may become money. Opportunities to create and use symbols help children to utilize other symbols, like letters and numbers.
  • Sort out fantasy and reality. Dramatic play also allows children to differentiate between real and pretend. This is readily apparent when observing children using exaggerated voices to signal that they are playing their roles or in the child that announces, "It's just pretend." It may seem as though a child who has spent several hours engaged in dramatic play has just been "playing around" and has nothing concrete to show for it. On the contrary, the kind of play where a child takes on a role, and learns to interact from within that role, is very valuable to her development.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Teaching dramatic play

Child psychologist Jean Piaget said "play is the work of childhood."

To incorporate dramatic play into education, Ideal Curriculum recommends that teachers use some of these simple tools:
  • The teacher can guide children into a dramatic play activities that will help give them practice with vocabulary, language, and concepts they are learning. ("Let's ride on the subway to the museum.")
  • It often works best if the teacher joins in and does the actions etc. with the children.
  • Small items of clothing, a paper badge, or some other item may help focus the imagination needed in the activity.
  • While the teacher may participate, the teacher should not be the focal point nor the one to give all the direction to the activity. This takes practice since you want to keep the activity going, there is a tendency to push too hard. 
  • Often the teacher needs to insert questions to stimulate or guide certain children.. 
  • The activity should be fun and engaging. When fun starts to diminish, it may be time to stop the activity.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Finger Puppets

What's more fun than finger puppets? Not much, says Live and Learn:

     There isn't much we can tell you about finger puppets that you probably don't already know. Finger puppets are used in preschools for story time, daycare centers use finger puppets to entertain groups of children, and party professionals often incorporate finger puppets into birthday party activities.
     Finger puppets can be used by adults to teach and entertain children, but they have the best effect when children start using them on their own. When children use finger puppets they start to use their imaginations, they stimulate their verbal skills, they act out role playing scenarios, they enhance their socialization skills plus more, but the bottom line is...finger puppets are cute and fun!

See our selection of finger puppets, including our alphabet fingers and realistic road sign puppets.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Language Skills

Would other describe your child as: articulate, well-spoken, precocious? Dramatic play enhances verbal skills.

Pretend play also builds language skills. Kids often use words and phrases in play that you never knew they knew. They use language to plan their play with others and language usually supports the roles they adopt. At the same time, they can experiment with language and learn to use it appropriately. After all, doctors say different things than storekeepers do. Dramatic play also helps kids concentrate, be attentive and control their own behavior – all skills that will help them do well in school and in life. . --Ann Barbour, Ph.D., Early Childhood Education Professor

Abstract Thinking and Problem Solving

Does your child think abstractly? Is he at an age-appropriate level for cognitive development? The latest computerized toys may be hurting his development.

Dramatic play promotes abstract thinking. When children use a prop (like a block) to stand for something else (a phone for instance), they are learning to think using symbols. The block symbolizes the phone. And that kind of thinking is the basis for just about everything children learn in school. After all, letters and words and numbers are really symbols for real objects or quantities. Dramatic play also encourages problem solving, and if children are playing with others, it builds social and emotional skills: learning about other peoples’ feelings and perspectives, negotiating, cooperating, etc. They also learn how to respond appropriately to others. In dramatic play kids can be anything they want just by pretending and that’s emotionally satisfying and builds self-esteem. --Ann Barbour, Ph.D., Early Childhood Education Professor

See the World through your Child's Eyes

Parents struggle with some big questions. What does my son know about empathy? How can I be sure my daughter understands what it means that the family is going to be moving to a new home? Does he really know that the dog is sick and we have to be more gentle to him? Is she okay with the divorce?

How can parents know what their child is experiencing? Through dramatic play. Dramatic play gives a parent insight into their child's experience of the world, simply by watching him/her play with appropriate toys.
When children use their imaginations or pretend, we call that dramatic play and that’s the main type of play for 3-to7-year-olds. What they’re doing in dramatic play is representing in their own way their understanding of their experiences, rather than simply imitating what they see others do. They use objects and actions and storylines to symbolize the things that concern them. And in the process, they’re building thinking skills and developing social, emotional and language skills. Dramatic play is a very important context for learning. --Ann Barbour, Ph.D., Early Childhood Education Professor

Friday, November 18, 2011

Incorporating dramatic play into your classroom

"Research clearly supports developmentally appropriate practices in the early childhood classroom, but recent demands by specific programs and curriculum... [finds] teachers find themselves struggling with time and organization restraints where one or two curriculum trends take over the classroom, leaving little time for anything else...The secret to keeping the balance in developmentally appropriate practices involves adjusting our curriculum to new trends and research suggestions without sacrificing the benefits of current practices that have proved beneficial results for young children time and time again," says Tammy Benson, Ed.D. at PBS Teachers.
Here are some ways you can incorporate dramatic play into your classroom using products, such as our occupational finger puppets (shown above), at Dexter Educational Toys:
  • Build around thematic units.
  • Designate a specific play area.
  • Allow adequate time for play experiences.
  • Add items to promote pro-social behaviors and character development.
  • Reinforce physical, cognitive, and social skills appropriate for the grade level.
  • Promote creativity and flexibility of play.
  • Ensure problem-solving is taking place.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Family Dramas and Playing House

Family dramas are the ones most frequently re-enacted: toilet learning; being disciplined; bedtime; starting school; divorce; family discord; illness; moving; travel.

Kids want to emulate their parents and experience their roles. Playing house activities such as shopping, cooking, setting the table, laundering, tea parties, baby care, phone conversations, and dressing up are consistently played out. This is good preparation - or rehearsal - for nurturing a real family later on.

Children will often behave in a much more mature fashion when in dramatic play: pay greater attention in pretend school than real school; may sit still longer at a make-believe tea party than at the family's dinner table.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Expectations and Anticipation

Before children can have expectations and infer outcomes, they MUST have imagination. Fear and failure often precede pleasure and success. Kids can live through an event before it actually happens, by pretending.

Playing doctor is universally popular because it breaks down the fear of the unknown or being overpowered into manageable parts. The child playing doctor has the control; the child playing the patient also has control in fantasy. Likewise, a trip to the playground may mean having to encounter the gruff dog down the street. By pretending, the child is able to face the good, the bad and the ugly and prepare for all three.

A child can anticipate what will happen by mirroring the real situation and is able to control expectations because she is the writer, actor and director all in one. As children mature, they live more and more in the future. They are able to delay gratification, set goals and define their expectations through dramatic play.

For more information on dramatic play and how it can be a part of your home or classroom, visit our website

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Dramatic Play - Disappointments, Change, and Empathy

Disappointments and Change
Changes in plans or routines may be devastating to children. They thrive on routine, and when it is interrupted they may fall apart. Prociessing out disappointment and change through dramatic play helps ease the stress.

The development of joint purpose and cooperation that dramatic play affords children is a jupstart for their social skills and sense of empathy. Sibling who pretend together are more cooperative and better at negotiation. They tend to discuss thoughts and feelings more frequently.

For more information on dramatic play and its benefits for children, visit our website! 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Dramatic Play - Bonding and Daydreams

Bonding - 
Children often form or maintain relationships best through dramatic play, especially if they have siblings of different ages. Often siblings will tolerate one another only in make-believe and not in realism. Babyish behavior - a source of irritation to an older child - will be encouraged if the younger child plays the baby's role and that "baby" will cheerfully abide limitations and without resentments when being babyish is the expected, required behavior.

Daydreams and Fantasies -
When children leave the preschool years, their imagination begins to work in daydreams and fantasies, which continue throughout the rest of their lives. Daydreams and fantasies are used for escape, vicarious thrills, revenge, wish fulfillment, even for brainstorming and inventiveness... and they continue throughout life.

For more information, visit our website!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Aggression and Hostility

Children will express any conflicts and irritations they  feel and make them more manageable through dramatic play. Adults are often shocked at the drastic measures and verbiage to which children resort to express their hostile feelings. Dolls are a primary focus for coming to grips with negative feelings and being in power. The challenge of adjusting to a new sibling is often lightened when feelings - both acceptable and unacceptable - can be taken out on a doll. Anger can be released safely.

For more information, visit our website!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Play That Has Meaning is Sure to be Repeated

The roots of pro-social behavior such as nurturing, caring and sharing (better expressed as "taking turns") begin in pretend play as children practice affection and sympathy. Their expressions of anti-social behaviors like physical aggression, verbal abusiveness, and violence also play a valid part in make-believe.

Children need to, and will, be flexible in their pretend play to manipulate concepts they are just beginning to grasp.

Children will repeat actions and dialog over and over with or without modifications. They may act out something unfamiliar to cope with their fear and anxiety to gain more understanding and release negative energy, or they may relive very familiar joys and pleasures and release positive energy. Kids need to repeat situations again and again to minimize the accompanying negative or positive stresses. Kids will often exaggerate their roles. When playing "baby" they can express jealous feelings safely, and still recognize how much better it is to be the older sibling. This is their way of interpreting the known and unknown environments and trying out what they think is versus what really is.

For more information, visit our website!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Categories and Forms of Pretending

As pretending increases in a child's life, the subject matter  changes. The three categories most often displayed are:
  • Personification (speaking to and for dolls, stuffed toys, inanimate objects)
  • Imaginative Use of Materials (drinking out of a cup, shaving, carrying a purse)
  • Participation in Make-Believe Situations (visiting the doctor, keeping house, putting out fires)
All Children like stories about animals, boys like adventures, girls enjoy home life and domestic happenings.

There are many forms of pretending - each has its own value:
  • Talking to self/monologue/stream of consciousness
  • Informal, spontaneous dialog between two people
  • Extemporaneous role-playing, alone or cooperatively
  • Solo performance or pretending alone
  • Pantomime of a well-known story
  • Dramatization of a storybook with or without a supporting cast
  • Improvised skit
  • Role-playing
  • Scripted play
  • Factual re-enactment
  • Group collaboration
For more information about dramatic play and our products, visit our website

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What Children Learn from Pretending

By pretending and engaging in dramatic play, children are able to:

  • Act out real life or imaginary roles, playing alone or with other children, without the accompanying stress of responsibility. 
  • Stimulate and express their thinking, creativity, and imagination by manipulating and rearranging their environments and experiences.
  • Escape from the limits of being little, weak, or naive. 
  • Experiment, explore and extend their boundaries of experience, size, strength, time, space and login. 
  • Build self confidence with opportunities to feel important, to support or repair their self-esteem, feel less helpless, more in power. 
  • Challenge their own thinking and resourcefulness.
  • Focus on new concepts and ideas an integrate them into their lives
  • See what it feels like to temporarily be someone else by acting out what another person might say and do.
  • Enhance their communication skills: vocabulary, comprehension, speaking, attention span, listening to and following directions. 
  • Clarify their feelings and vent their problems by putting them into words.
  • Express their ideas, needs, feelings, fears and fantasies safely.
  • Neutralize negative, aggressive, destructive feelings by releasing unacceptable impulses.
  • Prepare for grown-up roles by imitating many different adults. 
  • Lean about different situations, people, animals and places.
  • Work out their fears, problems, resolve issues, experiment with solutions, make sense of confusion.
  • Test limits, take risks, reverse usual roles, act out anti-social behaviors.
  • Develop a sense of morality and pro-social behaviors. 
  • Gain knowledge about social relationships and understand themselves better.
  • Enhance cooperation, and take turns as they plan and work together.
  • Discriminate between reality and fantasy by bringing them together in play. 
  • Experience similarity, diversity and inclusion.
  • Cultivate senses of belonging, joint purpose and cooperation. 
The benefits of dramatic play are endless! For more information, visit our website!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Health and Career Dressups!

These dressups are especially designed with realistic details. The dressups instill high self-esteem while allowing creativity and fun. They are made with Velcro closures in the back. Easiest dressups to put on and take off.

Cotton blend, machine washable, highly durable, one size fits 2 to 7 years - boys or girls.
Will not fade, lose color or shrink, kids love them. Sold individually or in a set. Matching hats included in price.

Visit our site to learn more!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Classroom Ideas for Dramatic Play

Many classrooms, especially preschool and elementary settings, offer dramatic play stations and activities as a way to introduce young children to how the world around them works. From exploring careers to learning about families and responsibility, dramatic play classroom activities allow children to use their imaginations and enhance their developmental skills.

Dress Up
Using clothing, shoes, hats, jewelry and other accessories, put together a dress-up station or box where the students can learn how to button, zip, snap and put on outfits. Since kids love to play dress up in adult clothing, classroom dress up activities let them use their imaginations to create unique looks. During free play activities, students can select the items of their choice to wear, but for more structured play you may ask them to dress up as if they were going to work, to bed or to a fancy dinner.

Puppet Show
Finger puppets and hand puppets can help children learn the elements of a story, from setting and plot to character development. Puppet shows afford students an opportunity to create stories with their fellow classmates using unique characters they can create as they make up their stories. It'll inspire creativity and spark their imaginations. 

Whether playing with stuffed or wooden animals or using items like paper plates to create animal masks, kids can learn about different types of animals, what they eat, where they live and the sounds they make. They can select their favorite animal and demonstrate how it would eat, sleep, sound and travel around in its habitat. Another possible activity is to allow the students to learn and act out how zoo keepers, farmers and pet owners care for their animals on a daily basis.

Pretend Kitchen
Preparing meals, washing dishes and setting the table are important skills children begin to learn at an early age through dramatic play in the classroom and at home. A pretend kitchen area is usually equipped with a stove, sink, refrigerator, child-friendly dish and pretend food. For a dramatic play classroom activity, assign children specific duties they need to fulfill in the kitchen area. You can even add tasks such as making a grocery list, shopping for food at the supermarket and putting the food items away in the kitchen.

Careers and Occupations
At a young age, children begin to pay attention to what the careers and occupations the adults in their lives hold. A classroom idea for dramatic play that explores careers and occupations is to have students tell the class what they want to be when they grow up and then dress the part using items from the dress-up area. Students can demonstrate what they think someone with the career of their interest does. Younger kids will likely select familiar careers like teachers, doctors, policemen, firefighters and nurses.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why is Dramatic Play So Important?

When you’re two and a half feet tall, the world can be a wondrous place.  There are so many new things to see, taste, touch and smell.   But what do you do, when many of those new sights and sounds are off limits? As a parent, you spend a great deal of time trying to show your child the world around them, but you probably spend even more time telling them “No.”  You want them to be safe, but how will they ever learn how to operate in the adult world, when they are too small to participate?

The answer is dramatic play.

By giving your child a safe place to act out and mimic the things that they see adults doing every day, they have a chance to grasp a better understanding of how things work. Here are some more benefits to engaging in dramatic play together.

Dramatic play helps develop:

Knowledge of how the world works
Problem-solving skills
Emotional strength & stability in actions & words
Language skills
Focus, concentration
Styles of behavior
Cooperation with others
Perception of meaning
Participation in world

Why are dress up games and dramatic play so important for childhood development?

There are many benefits to dramatic play and dress up, and it’s important that you set aside time each and every day to play together with your child.  Let’s look at some examples of things that dramatic play helps kids do:

Explore issues in their lives – small children have difficulty grasping things like a new baby, a sick relative, or a move.  Dramatic play allows you and your child to explore the changes that are about to occur, in a fun and exciting way.  How about pretending that their dolls are sick, and they must go to the hospital to get better?  Or maybe Mr. Bear has to move to a different town and try to make new friends with the other bears in town?  The possibilities are endless- and you are free to discuss fears and concerns with your child in an imaginative way.

Experiment with different behaviors – playing together doesn’t come naturally to kids.  They must work on cooperating with others and dealing with anger and frustration when it arises.  One of the best ways to do this is through dress up.  Wouldn’t you much rather your child gets upset with a stuffed animal, then a fellow playmate?

Practice decision-making/problem solving – if there are four kids and two cookies, how can you divide them up so that everyone gets their share?  Try that experiment with a room full of toddlers, and someone is going to end up in tears.  Act it out at home in the safety of dramatic play, and a life lesson will be learned.

Process different points of view – How do you help your child become sympathetic with the world around them?  You teach them what it feels like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.  Dress up allows your child to be anyone that they want to be, and helps them understand where the other person is coming up.  Remember playing school as a kid?  Being the teacher gave you a whole new perspective on what it was like to be a student.

Learn new concepts – there are so many other things that your child could gain from dramatic play.  Math can be taught through a pretend trip to the grocery store for example.

Dramatic play helps your child become a valuable part of the adult world, while keeping them safe and secure.  Don’t be afraid to let your child lead the way, and listen when they speak.  You may just gain a better understanding of the world too!