The children at Mairtown Kindergarten really enjoy our family corner. It is a favourite space, always busy, full of role play, children reliving experiences and playing with their imaginations. It is an engaging place, where children delve into expressing themselves through their pretend play in both social and individual situations. The play that happens in this space is beautiful, rich and real.
I just thought I would give a little bit of history behind our family corner area. A few years back, after engaging in self-review around the family corner, the team at Mairtown Kindergarten decided to design a space to help enhance the type of play that happened in this space.
The team wanted to make this a more concrete and functional space, which was inviting and aesthetically pleasing. It was dressed with some delightful wall paper, intriguing furniture was added and some solid wooden framing and a swinging door was constructed to give this space a real sense of ‘place’.
Over the years this has proven to be very successful project, creating many positive outcomes, supporting and fostering many of our attending children’s learning and development, especially through the amount of role play, dramatic play and imaginative play that has taken place.
“Dramatic play engages children in both life and learning. Its’ real value lies in the fact that it increases their understanding of the world they live in, while it works to develop personal skills that will help them meet with success throughout their lives.” (Cecchini, 2008)
The family corner and the way it is set up like a small house with cups and sauces, pots and pans, beds and tables is wonderful for creating many opportunities for extending on children’s interests in imaginary play. This type of play allows children to explore the magic of being creative with their ideas and knowledge in a safe but meaningful way. The roles that they chose to play with in this context are mostly realistic.
Davis (2011) acknowledges that, “Imaginative play is essentially when children are role playing and are acting out various experiences they may have had or something that is of some interest to them. They are experimenting with decision making on how to behave and are also practising their social skills. Children learn from experience: from what happens around them, from what they see, hear, smell, taste and touch. To absorb those experiences and make sense of the world, they need to be engaged in imaginary play.”
The family corner is popular with both girls and boys. Family situations like ‘Mum’s and Dad’s’ is one of the more regular role play scenarios that are played out. As we are well aware of though, families come in all shapes and sizes and it is really lovely when observing children in this play explaining the different ways that their families are made up. For example one group of children were deep in play and they realised they had lots of girls in the game. They started negotiating who was going to be the ‘Mum’ and after a bit of negotiating one of them piped up saying, “You know we can have lots of Mum’s our house and an aunty and a sister with all their babies. We can have a dad too, but don’t need one if we can’t find one!”
For young children, their family and home are the biggest parts of their world. The imitation of what happens there and in the world around them is the central focus of how they play. We often see our children acting out and exploring the lives of people they are influenced by through acting out their work, their feelings, and their words.
The family corner is a place where children like to quietly play by themselves, however it is also a place full of wonderful social interaction. The children invite each other into their play and soon there are many different roles being played out. The children are always so engaged in their play and take their roles very seriously. The dialogue shared amongst peers during this type of imaginary play is often like a running commentary of what was happening, for example, “I better feed my baby so it is happy and then I better give it a big cuddle. Waa waa waa. It's ok baby. Mummy is here. Is your baby good Willa? I think she needs a feed too, and a bed and then you should cuddle her till she is so happy.”
“Through role play children cultivate social and emotional intelligence. How we interact with others is key to our lifelong success and happiness. Knowing how to read social cues, recognize and regulate emotions, negotiate and take turns, and engage in a long-term activity that is mutually beneficial are no easy tasks. There is no substitute for creative and imaginative play when it comes to teaching and enhancing these abilities in children.” (www.brighthorizons.com)
The joy, magic and creativity that happens during this type of play is so wonderful to be a part of. The children involved are incredibly good at being free and thinking outside the box through their play. As a teacher I recognise the value of imaginary play and the important role it plays in terms of lifelong learning. It is great for helping develop strategies that support problem solving in real life situations.
“Dramatic play encourages children to put themselves in someone else's shoes. Such role-playing helps them to improve their ability to do this in real life. They learn important social skills, such as empathy. Dramatic play also encourages expressive language. Children are motivated to convey their wishes to others and speak from the perspective of their pretend roles.” (Yalow, 2014)
Role play and imaginary play is important work for our children and as their teachers it is so important that we foster this. We do this here at Mairtown Kindergarten by providing a beautiful, interesting space, full of resources that capture the imagination. I know that I will always continue to make sure that our children have the time and space to engage in this type of meaningful play at kindergarten.
“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions.” (Albert Einstein