I have a degree in child development. When I was in college, we talked about how children develop socially. There are toys that can encourage social interaction and dramatic play; dolls, puppets, and dress up clothes to name a few. I always made sure my boys had access to dolls, puppets, and even dress up clothes.
We have a bucket full of costumes from Halloweens past. My boys can pretend to be; pirates, transformers, astronauts, cops, firemen, knights, robots, and even sailors. When they put on their costumes they become a new person, a grown up, fearless. They can fight bad guys or be bad guys. They can settle conflicts. They can work together. They can play out any number of social situations.
My boys also have dolls, LOTS of dolls. Well, some would argue that they are "action figures." They are Star Wars, G. I. Joe, and Imaginext characters. It really does not matter what they are wearing. What matters is that these dolls can do grown up things. The great thing about dolls or action figures, is that one child can play with multiple characters at the same time. The child can deal with opposition all by himself.
Puppets serve the same function as the dolls and dress up clothes.
Today I discovered a new dramatic play toy that I had never really considered before. I over heard a conversation this morning. By the sounds in my children's voices I knew that there was some dramatic play going on. Everyone knows the voices I am talking about. Boys tend to drop their voices a few octaves and girls tend to raise it up a few pitches. I would love to explore why it is that children do this but I digress... When I saw what tools my boys were using to act out their scenario I was a little bit surprised, they were playing cars.
It turns out that any toy can become a tool for dramatic play. Even non-toys. I remember playing with my mom's perfume bottles when I was very little. And if you think that dinosaurs can't talk.... Just check out this clip from my FAVORITE T.V. Series....
In parting, I have a secret for you.....
When I was teaching preschool, I overheard some VERY INTERESTING conversations in the dramatic play area. Some of you may think your children are not listening to the quiet or LOUD discussions you are having at home among other adults. I have news for you, they are listening... Then they are reenacting it at preschool for their teachers to hear. I believe it is important for children to hear their parents disagree and make up. It shows them how to do the same. No child ever benefited from never hearing their parents fight. We can't pretend life is perfect. Conflict will arise. How you handle it will show your children how to handle those difficult situations when they arise. As homeschoolers, we need to be sure that our children have the tools and the opportunity to act out conflicts through dramatic play. It is one part of raising a well-rounded and social individual.