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Role play forms a natural part of childhood, before long your little ones will assume characters in different scenarios and act out the different parts. Often role play is based on what children have observed, such as caring for younger siblings, keeping a shop or playing doctors, families or schools. As their imagination grows, so they begin to play made up scenarios such as fairies or princesses, explorers or monsters!
Role play offers many lessons to a developing child; clearly pretend play extends language and social interaction as children play with one another, or with a parent. Make believe nurtures imagination and helps children to develop abstract thought where they can extend the rules of the physical world into their pretend world. As they play they are developing their understanding of the world, learning to solve problems and learning the ability to view the world from the perspective of others.
Many role play games reinforce gender stereotypes from an early age; this seems to be a natural part of early play. Doctors and nurses and mummies and daddies might seem politically incorrect in this day and age, but the lessons learned from free play are much more important than lessons enforced about gender stereotyping at this young age. Any separation along lines of gender simply mirrors their understanding of the world through their own observation, and is done entirely innocently.
Other role play games reinforce notions of good and bad; cops and robbers, fairies and witches, cowboys and indians or simply goodies and baddies all draw lines between the good side and bad side and children dividing themselves in such ways will conform to the expected behaviour.
Young children should be encouraged in their make-believe worlds. They might be asissted with dressing up clothes or large props such as play houses or camps, but at the end of the day, children will be children and will explore their imaginary worlds even without these!
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