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Role play: Discover what children learn from it and how you can offer it

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It is one of the most popular ways to get kids to play: role play. But what do they actually learn from it?

Role play is a game where the children imagine themselves as a different person. The players imagine an imaginary world in which they assume a character and tell a story during the game.

In this article I will tell you all about role play and how it helps children develop.

What do children learn from role play

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Why choosing role play is a good choice?

Develop through play

Role play is an activity in which children learn and develop through play. It provides a learning environment in which children can experiment, process problems and collaborate. Through role play, children learn to be flexible and adapt to different situations. It's a way of translating more difficult situations into an understandable context, such as playing doctor to make a visit to the doctor less scary.

developmental approach

Role play is a developmental approach that focuses on the interests and needs of the child. In contrast to a more directive instruction, role play often works in a thematic and broadly conceived manner. The curriculum emphasizes encouraging creativity and gaining experience. The environment in which the role play takes place is structured, but at the same time offers freedom of choice to the child.

Exploration and interaction

Role play provides a rich learning environment in which children can explore and interact. It is a balanced approach in which the learning objectives are clear and focused, but not defined. It is a guided activity where the professional has carefully planned goals, but where the role of the child is central. The child is free to fill in the roles and thereby achieve specific goals.

Early Childhood Education

Role play is an important part of Early Childhood Education (ECE) and is seen as a leading initiative in pedagogy. Some professionals point out that role play has a place in a broader approach to learning environments in which exploration and interaction are central. It is a continuum in which guided and freer forms of play result in a balanced development of the child.

Role play with your child: stimulate your child's imagination and development

When is role play appropriate for your child?

Role play is a form of symbolic play where children imitate situations and imagine themselves as someone else. It is suitable for children of all ages, but especially for children between 2 and 7 years old. During this period, children develop their mental capacity to understand and process abstract ideas. Role play gives children the chance to practice and discover the world around them.

Stimulate your child's imagination

Role play stimulates the fantasy of your child and gives them the chance to show their greatest sides. Children can imagine themselves as movie characters, superheroes or princesses and create their own fantasy world. Role playing with your child gives them the chance to experiment and discover who they want to be and what they want to achieve.

Imitate specific situations

Role play gives children the opportunity to imitate and practice concrete situations. For example, children can put on a doctor's kit or a princess dress and then select a number of patients or peers to help. This stimulates your child's problem-solving skills and helps them overcome problems together.

Use role play as a means

Role play can also be used as a means to help your child in certain situations. For example, it can help to prepare your child for an exciting meeting, such as a visit to the dentist. You can lend your child a doctor's kit and let them play as a dentist. This way they can get used to the situation and prepare themselves for what to expect.

Dress up box and role play

A dress up box can be a perfect way to encourage role play. It allows children to dress up themselves and mimic and represent different situations. Role-playing games can sometimes last an hour or more, so be prepared for a long game time. Afterwards, your children will be happy and satisfied with what they have achieved.

Role-playing with your child is a great way to stimulate your child's imagination and development. It also comes with some benefits like developing social skills and stimulating creativity. By using role-play as a tool, you can help your child through certain situations and prepare them for what to expect.

Why role play with your child is good for development

Stimulates language development

During role play, children learn to talk and express themselves. They describe situations, tell stories and explain things in full sentences. By building a story together, they also learn new words and sentences. All this helps to develop their language skills.

Promotes problem solving ability

Role play gives children the chance to overcome problems and collaborate with peers. For example, if the patient's doll needs to be treated by the doctor, they have to figure out what's wrong and how to fix it. This stimulates their problem-solving skills and helps them to work together.

Helps discover interests

During role play, children can take on different roles and discover what they like. Maybe they like being the leader or just like being helped like the patient. In addition, they find out where their interests lie.

Stimulates creativity

Role play stimulates children's imagination. They can be themselves and create their own story. By dressing up in old cloths or a cape, a doctor's kit or a princess dress, they can give free rein to their creativity. This helps them think more creatively and handle situations better.

Improves self-confidence

During role play, children can put themselves in the shoes of someone else and learn to express themselves in a different way. This can help boost their confidence and help them deal with situations that make them nervous. By practicing with different situations, they can get to know themselves better and discover their abilities.

Teaches children to deal with emotions

Role play can also help you deal with emotions. For example, if a child plays the role of a patient who is afraid to go to the dentist, it can help to express and overcome these emotions. By playing different roles and situations, children learn to deal with their own emotions and those of others.

Provides fun and satisfaction

Role play is a fun and playful way for children to learn and explore. They can be themselves and create their own story. It's a way to be sweet for an hour or more and feel satisfied and fulfilled afterwards. The most important thing is that the child has fun and can be himself.

In short, role play with your child is a perfect way to stimulate your child's development. It helps with language development, promotes problem solving, helps discover interests, stimulates creativity, improves self-confidence, teaches children how to deal with emotions and provides fun and satisfaction. So come on, take part in a role play with your little one and discover the exciting world of fantasy together!

Stages in role play


Role play is a very important aspect of children's play development. It enables preschoolers to play and learn symbolically imitate what adults do. During role-play, children take on meaning from the world around them and learn social skills.

The first stage: imitation

Children often start by imitating what adults do. For example, they play mother or doctor and take on the role of an adult. In this phase the roles are not yet very detailed and the children are mainly busy imitating the adults in a playful way.

The second stage: imagination

As children get older, they find that they can play in a lot more detail. They really get into their role and can, for example, do the shopping, bake, sell and eat. They no longer just play with a baby doll, but give the doll a name and a personality. They link simple actions together and play in a bound context. For example, a child can turn on the washing machine, get a bag and give a bottle to the doll.

The different roles

Children can take on different roles during the role play. This way they can play the role of father, mother, teacher or master. The material that is offered often determines which roles are played. For example, a dollhouse can ensure that children take on the role of mother and father, while a shop allows children to play the role of seller and customer.

The age groups

The different phases are completed by children of different age groups. For example, children between the ages of three and five mainly go through the first stage, while children between the ages of five and eight go through the second and third stages.

How can you offer role play to children?

At what age can you start roleplaying?

Role play is an activity that can be encouraged from an early age. Even babies can show interest in reenacting everyday activities such as cuddling or feeding. As children get older, they will naturally show more interest in role playing.

Using Stories and Interests

A good way to get kids excited about role play is to tell stories and use their interests. For example, you can read a story about knights and princesses and then role-play with your children in which they act out these characters. You can also craft together on dressing up items such as a cape or dress that fits the role play.

Get dressing box ready

It is useful to have a dress-up box ready with different items that match the role-play. You can think of clothing, accessories and toys. Before the role play, you can try on the dressing up stuff together and see which items best suit the roles.

Build a story together

Another way to offer role play is to build a story together. For example, you can describe a situation and think with your children how the characters in the story would act and talk. By building sentences together and practicing communication, children learn how to talk and communicate in a playful way.

Go along with the fantasy

It is important as a parent to go along with your children's fantasy. Even if it seems weird or strange at times, it's important to give your kids space to express their imagination. If your children notice that you are enthusiastic and go along with their imagination, they will stay motivated to play and develop.

Putting energy into what gets your kids excited

As a parent, it's important to put energy into what gets your kids excited. For example, if your kids like role-playing games, it's good to spend time and attention on that. By playing and practicing together, children can develop and learn in a playful way.

Closing costumes

It is important to conclude role play in a way that is clear to children. This can be done, for example, by cleaning up the dressing up stuff together and saying goodbye to the characters they played. It is also good to talk about what happened during the role play and what children have learned.

The three roles during role play with children

The game leader

The game leader is the one who guides the game and encourages the children to use their imagination. This person can be a parent, pedagogical staff member or game advisor. The game leader provides suggestions and brings materials to cover the game. Sometimes the game leader has the kids start over if chaos ensues, but usually he or she shows how the equipment works and then comes back to see how things are going. The game leader can also temporarily take charge if the children get stuck or if there is too much chaos.

The child

The child is the most important player in the role play. The child can take on the role of doctor, nurse, mother, neighbour, baker, salesman, and so on. The child learns through play and thus develops his or her language development, social skills and creativity. It is important that the child is given the freedom to develop his or her own ideas and to be involved in the game. It is also important that the child has the opportunity to experiment with new roles and situations.

It depends on the age and interests of the child how detailed the role play becomes. Some children like to play realistic roles, while others prefer imaginative play. It is important that the game leader and player respond to this and give the child the space to discover what he or she likes.

Aafke Boland and Anneriek Bouwman, consultants in the field of pretend play and authors of the magazine 'Spelen met Poppen', say that it is important to let the child decide where the game is going. It is up to the game leader and player to support and stimulate the game. This way the child can learn and grow in a playful way.


As a parent, it's best to choose a game where they experiment and discover, such as playing doctors or playing princesses. In addition, it is important to continue to encourage the game and to let them experiment.

I hope you now know more about role play and how you can use it to help your children develop.

Always something to do for the holidays or rainy day?

Play Choice now has the ultimate activity book collection, with over 60 pages of fun coloring pages and educational puzzles.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of is a content marketer, father and loves trying out new toys. As a child he came into contact with everything related to games when his mother started the Tinnen Soldaat in Ede. Now he and his team create helpful blog articles to help loyal readers with fun play ideas.