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Father, Mother, Child – Pretend Play in the School Entry Level

Dressing up to be an animal, doing what the parents do, or having hand puppets speak for you, all these games are popular with the age group of students in the School Entry Level.  They try these out by themselves or together with their friends.

The Elementary School Principal allotted funds for the SEL this year to purchase new toys, which not only support the children’s play opportunities, but also broaden these.  In addition to costumes which allow experiencing grown-up professions, there are now also dresses and other items typical for adult lives, including the cellphone and the briefcase. The students now have the opportunity to experiment and cook in a brand new play kitchen, a role often times preferred by boys.  New puppets as well as a puppet theater are available to the kids. Even a store-front can be set up to practice daily shopping for food and other items. Along with a cash register and baskets, the kids will find everything they need to practice grown-up roles.

Role and Pretend Play are an important part of the 5-year-old child’s social and emotional development. This play offers the possibility to be a different persona or even animal, and these young kids enjoy this particularly. It allows them to „try“ out different worlds in a safe environment and to be different people.  If the child suffers from unexpressed fears or negative experiences, role play often brings them to the surface to be dealt with.  Phobias, like the fear of dogs, often will be examined by playing „dog“ or „dog family.“

Pretend Play offers the child a secure framework within which she can experiment without having to experience the real world’s reactions.  Children practice social rules, behavior types, as well as seeing the world through someone else’s eyes.  Empathy, the ability to do this, is a central social competency, which has a prominent place in a child’s development.

Social and emotional competencies, central goals of the SEL, are often underestimated.  However, they are essential as they say a lot about a child and his ability to go to 1st Grade.  Which roles are particularly fascinating for the child, or who in her environment is of particular importance? What does a child assimilate, how does he deal with disagreements with friends, and is he able to learn even in a personally not ideal situation?

Living together, as well as the daily small quarrel with others find their place and can be practiced in someone else’s shoes. Daily situations such as School, Shopping, Home Life and Doctor’s Appointment can be examined and verbalized. Thus, the children learn social rules, acceptable behavior and vocabulary as well their own social and emotional boundaries.

All in all, we often underestimate the general learning opportunities role play offers. Whether the students broaden their language skills and active vocabulary, measure the ingredients for a recipe in the play kitchen, Language, Math and Natural Science play a significant role.  etting a table, printing money and making change, counting flowers and taking someone’s temperature – all these games offer subconscious, yet effective learning.

Give your children all the time and opportunity possible to experience himself and his world, whether you join him in his play or not. Old clothes, kitchen utensils, telephones and scales, suitcases, baskets, pillows, blankets and boxes, all these items and more, the kids will utilize in their play.  Costumes, or even just certain accessories such a crown for the princess, a stethoscope for the doctor or a telescope for the pirate are enough for them. And, of course, the more traditional puppet theater is still a lot of fun.

All this said, read books to and with your kids, play with them, listen to the ideas on your child’s mind, support her in her social learning – and then worry about cleaning up the mess in the room later.

Dörte Hardage
SEL Coordinator

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