The Importance of Role Play for Kids
I’m a firm believer in talking through things with my kids. I’m not telling them all sorts of stuff that’s inappropriate, but I talk through things that are happening in their lives with them. Often, the car is where I explain exactly what’s going to happen next. “When we get home, we are going to have a snack, read books, and then it’ll be time for a nap.”
My preschooler has started to ask: “what are we going to do after that?” and “and then who is coming over?” So maybe there’s some overscheduling involved here, but nonetheless, she’s organizing her thoughts. This is where role play comes in.
Our most recent significant role play was regarding Hoolie’s first day alone at preschool. The first day at her preschool, a parent goes with for the day, so I reiterated several times that the next time, I wasn’t going to be staying at school with her. I reminder her that she was going to be staying with the teachers and the other kids. We went over this multiple times, and each time she told me that she was going to cry, “Mommyyyyy, mommyyyy!!!!” when I leave. I was, of course, heartbroken hearing this sad mantra.
With Hoolie, I role-played all of the different parts of the day (since I knew what was going to happen from my first day there). I knew in my heart that she was going to love preschool. I had chosen a preschool carefully, and I knew she would love everything they do there. I just wasn’t sure how this goodbye was going to go. She was being honest with me about what she was feeling and what she was going to do, and I was acknowledging her feelings the best I could. It didn’t matter how many times we replayed how fun the preschool day was, she still insisted she was going to say her sad mantra.
But then, a breakthrough!
I listed off the names of the kids I remembered from the first day. There was one sweet little girl who apparently resonated with my Hoolie on day one. When I said her name, Hoolie lit up with excitement that that little girl was going to be there. From that moment forward, her new little friend was our focus, and Hoolie wasn’t worried anymore. Her mantra changed from crying that I was going to leave, to “I love you, mommy. When school is over, you’ll be waiting there for me!” When it came time for me to leave her on her first day alone, she was well-practiced, and that’s exactly what she said.