Dramatic Play is not only a source of wonder and magic — it is good for cognitive development!  Pretend play requires the ability to transform objects and actions symbolically; for example, pretending to be mommy or a doctor; pretending a bowl of nuts and leaves is oatmeal for Goldilocks.

There is research that has shown that pretend play coupled with literacy props increases a child's understanding and awareness of environment print and the use of signs.

In Dramatic play children:

  • develop their receptive and expressive language skills (listening and speaking)
  • expand capacity for imagining
  • imitate life around them (being a mommy, fix a meal, etc)
  • build their attention and engagement capacity
  • learn how to negotiate other children and their thoughts, ideas and strategies
  • develop important abstract thinking skills
  • put math understandings to use in meaningful/playful context (counting, sorting, etc)
  • practice problem solving skills with their peers
  • build their working vocabulary
  • and more!

Here are some elements of a high quality pretend play in the Dramatic Play/Housekeeping Center:

  •  The use of real objects such as placemats, cups, forks, wooden plates, tins, wooden spoons, etc.   These can be more engaging and meaningful to role playing when chosen carefully.


  •  The home in miniature.  Dollhouses are excellent places to “pretend” the daily round of life and all the rich relationships held in this primal place.


  • Using nature items such log discs for plates.


  • . . . using pinecones as food.  The use of non-representational (open-ended) items is very important.  It exercises the imagination (frontal lobes).


  •  The use of warm and comforting colors (versus loud and primary colors).  This provides a visual canvas for the child's imagination.


  •  Chest of drawers filled hats, scarves, and other role playing props.


  •  Shoes for different occasions.  These can encourage seasonal pretend play as well as a variety of coats and outwear. (Builds a relationship and care for the impact of weather.)


  •  Baby dolls and beds.  These can encourage the nurturing actions of pretend play. (Builds empathy and compassion skills)


  •  A sense of beauty and order to the pretend rich spaces.   It is important to restore the order after the play is over.  Have the children help in putting things back in their places.  (Sorting and classifying skills)


  •  A variety of textures – plastic, metal, cloth, wood, woven.

A BIG THANK YOU to the teachers of Rosa Parks Early Childhood Center for the generosity of sharing their rooms.  All the photos in this post are from Rosa Parks.  What an inspiration!!