Children in their early childhood years are curious about the world around them and experience being and becoming a part of their community and society. They are beginning to develop social skills, social rules and understand cooperative play with others. Dramatic play, such as dress ups purposefully provides a space for children to further develop these skills, where the set up enriches the children’s identities, cultures and values and promotes optimal opportunity for communication to extend on children’s language development. It provides a learning space that is flexible and engaging for children with all levels of development, capabilities and learning styles (DET, 2019). This area allows for children to have a freedom of exploration, focusing on child-centred dramatic play, in which children have been provided with space and materials to create their own dramatic response (Roy, Baker & Hamilton, 2019).
Theory to practice
Sociodramatic play is a way for children to develop social and language skills, by creating imaginary worlds, characters, and scenarios, which relate to the real world (Smilansky, 1968). Children use play to re-create [the] world and model the social behaviour they see in it. In this way they can experience the world without risking the consequences. - Toye & Prendiville (2013, p. 11). Like oral language, sociodramatic play is learnt through social interaction and modelling of play in context (Toye & Prendiville, 2013).
In line with Vygotsky’s (1967) socio-cultural learning, play allows children to be supported by a more capable “player”. For sociodramatic play, this means that older peers and educators can model more advanced play using elements of drama teaching. This will then allow children to learn collaboratively, and eventually be able to engage in more advanced sociodramatic play by themselves. It is important for educators to model and extend upon children’s play (Smilansky, 1968; Fleer, 2016), so that children are challenged to continue building upon their own independent play experiences.