By Mandar Natekar
It was not very long ago when kids enjoyed role-playing games like “house-house”, “school-school” or “doctor-doctor”. These games allowed them to behave like adults and feel they had an important role to fulfill in society. Looking back, while there has been a significant increase in the importance of value provided by such games, their impact and engagement has moved to a completely new level.
Kids now have greater exposure, wider access to knowledge and the required tools to engage more deeply in different role-playing avatars. Pretend playing different avatars allows for a more holistic growth in children helping them to think more creatively and imaginatively with each play.
As a method of learning, role-play or pretence is regarded highly beneficial as it allows parents to introduce children to real-life situations. It encourages them to handle similar roles and responsibilities in real life more confidently, while also acquainting them with the importance and challenges associated with those roles. Role-play allows the child to undergo cognitive, emotional and physical as well as language development, in a fun and creative way with more freedom to express themselves and their ideas. Almost every child has the ability to be creative and inclination to bring that creativity alive. It is when we adults allow children the opportunity to act like a teacher, doctor, engineer and other favourite pretend scenarios, can we truly help them come closer to the real world but in a safer environment.
However, the success of role-play method of learning depends highly on the repeated practice of different roles on a regular basis. With the participation of friends and family, children can adapt to this methodology of learning quickly for it ultimately helps induce empathy, understand ways to conflict resolution and sharpens their social skills. It also allows parents to monitor the skills being acquired by the child more closely, while spending some quality bonding time with them.
When involved in a role-play of their favourite avatars, children develop key cognitive skills like problem-solving, planning and goal determining, which motivates them to enquire and learn even more. Their physical involvement, as they run around or participate in different activities, enables children to develop their motor skills. For instance, when a child wishes to become a doctor they will use equipment like a stethoscope to check heartbeat or thermometer to check temperature and so on. This will help educate children appropriately about the various tools used by a doctor and their use in real life. There may be areas that are difficult to understand in words but easier when a child participates and learns through observation.
The longevity of learning gained by a child through role-play is certainly known to be more than that gathered from mere reading of books. Therefore, each role-play ultimately helps achieve the larger purpose, which is to allow the child to internalise the relevance of different roles in daily life and gain the required knowledge to lead those within the established value-set, as it may transform into their future.
(The writer is Chief Business Officer, KidZania India.)