The Benefits of Roleplay and Imagination for Kids

The Benefits of Roleplay and Imagination for Kids

5 August 2022 • Words by Samantha Weitzberg 2 mins

When I was around six years old, I started, along with a plush Cookie Monster in an apron and chef hat, a business plan. I called my shop “Cookie’s Business,” because he had the hat and name recognition, after all. It was the summer and the possibilities seemed endless in terms of what I could sell and how I could fill my day. I served dry plastic steak, paper plate cakes, diapers, handmade jewelry, and home supplies. It was a variety store, and the versatility of the items allowed me to repurpose and revise my shop over and over again.

Through my work in the classroom, ranging from toddlers to kindergartners, I saw that throughout early development roleplay had an integral role in language development, social skills, and self-confidence for kids. By creating fun, challenging play opportunities we understand that play is the work of children. In my classroom, to facilitate these experiences I added everyday objects to our “kitchen,” from notepads for taking orders and plastic gift “credit” cards to menus and hair curlers. 

According to Karen D’Souza, research shows that play can improve fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and even a child’s working memory. Play also leads to greater autonomy and understanding of the world, as children tend to play with the world they know. 

Three Ways to Roleplay with Your Kids

Create a restaurant at mealtime

When preparing food with your child, allow them to be the sous chef or the server. Set up a chopping or mixing station and encourage your child to prepare the food with you. Montessori educators recommend the benefits of using real materials with young children, including knives. You can also add paper and crayons to your play as food cooks and allow your child to draw up menus, take the “orders” of the other diners, and set the table.

Set up an office workspace

Provide resources like pencils, notebooks, a calendar, a play phone, a calculator, and sticky notes so they can mimic working in an office. Create a schedule together, complete with meetings, phone calls, and wellness breaks. Take a break together using a Moshi Moment like ShiShi’s Soothing Anxiety Shrinker.

Create an invention station

Free time and open-ended materials allow for excellent imaginative play. Set up an invention station with a variety of loose parts including plastic water bottle caps, marker tops, and squeezable snack tops. Loose parts can be artificial materials such as these or natural objects such as seashells. These parts can be constructed and deconstructed based on the conversations you have with your child about everyday problems that scientists and researchers are looking to solve. 

Samantha Weitzberg

Samantha Weitzberg, RYCT, RYT, is an early childhood teacher, yoga instructor, and mindfulness leader living in New York. She is also a first-time mom to a baby boy, but has been a puppy mom for a while.