How is Dramatic Play Different in Children of Different Ages?
Serena’s brother Stanley is two and a half years old. His favorite place to play is the sandbox. He spends long periods of time peacefully pouring, sifting and digging in the sand. Recently he has begun to imitate a large construction machine that has been used in a road- widening project near Mrs. Conklin’s house. Stanley’s play begins when he assumes a position on all fours in the sandbox. Stanley uses his right arm and hand as a slow-moving, rhythmical shovel. As he digs he makes noises that are uncannily like those made by the machine he has observed. Occasionally he sits back on his heels and wipes the back of his hand across his brow. Mrs. Conklin tries to offer him a drink of water at these "breaks" and to inquire about the progress of the work. In this way Stanley learns that his efforts are important and worthy of respect.
While Stanley digs, two four year olds in another part of the yard are engaging in yet another form of dramatic play. After arranging some small plastic dolls in a shoe box one says to the other "No honey. I’ll drive the children to the doctor. You have to go to work now!" and she drives the shoe box car across the lawn.
Mrs. Conklin’s five-year-old son particularly enjoyed a family camping trip over the summer. When he and his six year- old cousin are together they beg Mrs. C. for a tent, which she provides by throwing an old sheet over the picnic table and anchoring the edges with logs. "They take all kinds of things in there to use as sleeping bags, blocks for flashlights, pretend food, and other blocks for "firewood". Sometimes they invite the younger children in for a pretend supper around the campfire. At other times Mrs C. encourages the play by suggesting that she serve snack at the "camp".
Children over the age of five continue to enjoy dramatic play, sometimes inventing elaborate games that continue for days or weeks. They may also use puppets or paper cutouts to enact stories or put on simple plays (which occasionally go on for a longer time than adult audiences might wish!). In their play they become everything from astronauts to ballerinas.
Source: Pennsylvania State University