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Enhance Learning With Dramatic Play

Dramatic play is known as a make-believe activity where children assign and accept roles, to then act them out. It’s a fun time for them where they use their creativity and imagination to pretend to be someone or something else. They dramatize their actions and place themselves into situations that go along with the roles they have decided to play.

Truth be told, this type of play is often considered to be more of a frivolous activity by some. Yet, enabling kids to develop such skills in areas like social studies, abstract thinking, literacy, and math, remains an essential part of the developmental learning process.

An Essential Learning Environment

When we watch kids play, we witness how they smoothly reinvent scenes that would typically take place in life like in a department store, a gas station, a library, a construction site, or even a classroom. This shows us that, to reach the fullest potential of dramatic play with regards to learning, daycare and preschool educators must “set the stage” throughout their classroom(s).

How Do Educators “Set the Stage” for Dramatic Play?

Dramatic play areas need to be inviting to children. The presentation of the area needs to inspire creativity and imagination. It should be a designated area where kids can instantly become someone else.

What is a Dramatic Play Skill Set?

There are five main skills that children enlist and further develop as they act out dramatic play experiences.

1) Role Playing:

Here, children use verbal expressions and mimic behaviors of whatever they are pretending to be. In the beginning, they will only imitate one action, perhaps two. But, the more they participate in dramatic play, the more they will expand those roles by imagining several actions that are relevant to their designated role.

2) Prop Use:

Children can elaborate or extend on their play, all by including objects into their pretend play. At first, they’ll usually rely on realistic, looks-just-like-it’s-suppossed-to, props. Then, they’ll move on to prop substitution, for instance, using a scarf to represent a watering hose, and then progress to “mime actions” or holding their empty hands in a certain manner to show that they are (pretending) to hold a “real” hose.

3) Make-Believe/Pretend Play:

Dramatic play is, essentially, playing make-believe. Kids take on a role, pretending to be a father, fireman, racecar driver, and so on, by emulating movements and actions they have witnessed before. Once they start to use dramatic play more and more, kids will then start to incorporate words to enhance their re-enactments. Sometimes, children even engage in a deeper, fantasy-like play, where the stories and situations they come up with are not based on reality.

4) Interaction and Social Skills:

The beauty of dramatic play is that it promotes the development of social skills. They acquire these social skills through the interaction with family, friends, and playmates. As children learn valuable social skills and increase that development through dramatic play, they will learn to adapt to pretending to play alone within scenarios, to pretend play that involves other children. In this last instance, children will play various roles and relate to each other from the viewpoint of their assigned roles.

5) Communication:

Dramatic play, without a doubt, promotes speaking, vocalization, and listening skills. When kids partake in dramatic play, they repeat words they have heard people say in similar situations and recognize that they have to listen to everyone one else to be able to respond appropriately. Additionally, it teaches them to pick their words carefully, so other children will understand precisely what it is they are striving to communicate.

Children in a forest

Four Real Benefits of Nature Play

If you have ever wondered about the real value of some good ole’ fashioned fresh air and outdoor time, then I would suggest you watch children as they bury their nose in some wildflowers, find an unusual alien-like insect in the woods, or happily splash around in a creek. As children explore their outdoor environment, they experience that special kind of pleasurable satisfaction nature provides that many adults remember feeling as children, and, as their parents did before them. A sunny summer afternoon running through the garden sprinkler or winter weekend spent playing hockey on a frozen lake are wonderful Canadian traditions, happily experienced and always fondly remembered.

When Playing Outside Can Seem Like a Daunting Task

However, the stress and effort of preparing young preschoolers for outdoor play, especially in colder seasons (… oh, you know… the coats, the assorted cold weather accessories, the piles of shoes and boots, the lineups at the bathroom…), can oftentimes feel a tad overwhelming. And that’s not all teachers have to worry about. What about the risk of injury? Insect stings? Mud puddle mishaps? Or possible zombie apocalypse?! Dear lord, the list just never ends.

Outdoor Play versus Nature Play: Is One Really Better?

Nature play is not just simply playing somewhere outside. It is actually more of a child-directed and child-initiated form of play in a natural space, such as an overgrown field, patch of woods, or the unmaintained areas of a neighborhood, and offers a great many benefits. Check out these following four benefits that nature play has to offer your childcare center.

Nature Play Benefit #1: Healthier Kids

Imagine a child running through a small patch of woods where trees have magically transformed into hiding places, upturned roots into forts, and fallen branches into jungle gyms. Now, compare the imaginative possibilities a child has in these woods to the possibilities provided by a swing or a slide in a playground. In both these instances there is a chance for physical activity, yet, undoubtedly, the woods do offer more options. This malleable and flexible aspect of nature is referred to by researchers as the ‘affordance’ of nature, and it is this affordance that offers substantial benefits to physical and motor skill development in small children.

Nature Play Benefit #2: Sharpened Intelligence

The variety provided by nature both stimulates and develops a child’s body physically, all the while offering an added boost to their brain development. When children are engaged in dynamic and varied outdoor play, they encounter ample opportunities for decision making. These circumstances, in turn, stimulate creative thinking and problem-solving in situations that are not typically found in a playground or static indoor environment.

Nature Play Benefit #3: Stress Relief and Social Bonding

Have you ever felt more relaxed after a walk along the lake or a hike in the woods? Most probably, the answer to that question is a loud YES! Well, it’s the same for kids. An added bonus to feeling relaxed is that time spent in nature often strengthens social bonds between children. Unstructured time inherent in play activities allows for the social interactions deemed to be crucial building blocks of emotional intelligence. When play time takes place in nature, kids have substantially increased possibilities for problem-solving, sharing, negotiating, and working together. So, you see, nature works as a facilitator of sorts for significant childhood social interactions.

Nature Play Benefit #4: Nurturing Care for Our Planet

As a general consensus, the scientific community believes that Earth will face tremendous environmental challenges in the upcoming years. Thus, in order to overcome these challenges, we will be in need of people who not only understand the Earth but who also have come to truly appreciate and care for it. Therefore, naturally (no pun intended!), research shows that nature play is a crucial stepping stone for developing these types of individuals. When children spend time in direct contact with the environment, through nature play, they can have the positive experiences that may, in fact, precondition them to care about nature and the world later on in life.

Picture of an Angry CHild

Top 10 Teacher Tantrum Tactics

Teachers, what do you do when your sweet little doe-eyed angels morph into screaming, crying, out-of-control tornadoes? Enter the dreaded temper tantrum. It’s loud, obnoxious and can turn any classroom into a rioting carnival. Heaven knows, it can happen in the blink of an eye and make any newbie or veteran teacher want to cry.

Tired Teachers, Gather ‘Round!

From frustration to hunger, jealousy to exhaustion, temper tantrums are triggered by a great many things. The sad truth is, they’re inevitable and are simply an age-appropriate phase that is passing through. Nonetheless, educators can certainly stay in control of their classroom with these ten excellent tips for dealing with tantrums. Be prepared for your colorful set of classroom meltdowns the next time they come a knock’in ’round your classroom door.

10 Tough Tantrum-Wrangling Techniques

Did you know that your actions before AND after a tantrum can make a world of difference as well? Believe it or not, it’s not just about how you handle a crisis in the moment. Check out these steps on how to approach tantrums, before, during and after they occur.

THE PRE-MELTDOWN PHASE:

Certain techniques can be implemented in the classroom to reduce the risk of a meltdown taking place.

1) Let’s Talk About Emotions

Talk to kids frequently about their feelings and how they are connected to tantrums. Go over the fact that everyone, including adults and even teachers, get upset from time to time. Consider role-playing games so children have the opportunity to really think about how they can handle their emotions when they get frustrated or upset, in a positive manner.

2) Get to Know Your Students

Take the time to chat with your students about what makes them happy or sad, as well as their likes and dislikes. This will give you an idea of what triggers them to become upset. This will also be the key to recognizing if/when a tantrum may be looming.

3) Keep an Eye on Potential Tornadoes

Many tantrums can be prevented once you know what a child’s possible triggers are. By keeping a close eye on how kids are doing throughout the day, teachers can gauge if a child is hungry, tired or bored, thus keeping ahead of any tantrum tornadoes. By recognizing the signs, teachers will be able to offer a child what they may need before the meltdown starts.

4) Become a Master Distractor

If you see a child on the verge of a tantrum, distract them with a book or a toy. Redirecting a child’s attention away from the negative emotions of a meltdown can help them calm down before it even begins. Something as surprisingly simple as asking them how they feel can divert their course.

THE EYE-OF-THE-HURRICANE PHASE:

Ah, oh. It’s too late. IT HAS BEGUN! What should you do when disaster strikes? Take a deep breath, and:

5) Step Back; it Might be a Doozy:

Flailing arms, kicking feet and punching fists often come for the tantrum ride, so, please, mind the safety zones and give tantrums lots of space. Prevent any accidents by moving an upset child away from areas with sharp corners or hard edges. Encourage the other children to work on quiet activities, like reading or drawing, in a different area of the classroom.

6) Keep it Calm, Keep it Cool:

Losing your temper is the worst thing you can do during a tantrum. Try to remember that these things are normal for young kids. Therefore, their behavior, no matter how UN-FUN it may seem, is indeed age-appropriate. Tantrums help children work through their emotions, release anxiety and stress, and come to an internal resolution.

7) Provide Kids with a Calming Place

Remove any frustrated or overstimulated children from their environment and provide them with a calming place where they can work through their feelings without becoming even more upset. Designate a calm area, or Quiet Zone, where kids know they can go and Zen-out when needed.

8) Don’t Ignore it; Talk it Out:

Encourage your kids to talk through their problems with a friend, with their classmates, or with you. As a teacher, don’t overshadow them. Make sure to get down to their eye-level and let them know that you understand how they feel. If they talk to you, do respond, but do not attempt a dialogue if they are not in a place where they wish to talk. Your most important role as a teacher is to listen.

THE THANK-GOD-THAT’S-OVER PHASE:

Congratulations. You’ve survived the worst of it all. Now, let’s get back to business.

9) Don’t Act Like the Elephant in the Room Ain’t There:

Talking about what just happened in the classroom may not be your first instinct as a teacher, and yet, it’s best to help children understand how to work through their feelings.

10) Encourage Empathy in the Classroom

All kids need to understand that their classmates may have trouble with certain things, like sharing or transitioning from one activity to another. You can encourage empathy in the classroom by having regular, honest, heart-to-heart conversations about why “we feel the way we do.” Children will then be in a position to understand how their friend(s) feel when they have a tantrum. Empathetic children will be able to be kind, helpful and respectful in times of tantrums.