Role play

little girl doing role play under an Outlast table with flowie outdoors

Making sense of the world through role play

“The very existence of youth is due in part to the necessity for play; the animal does not play because it is young, it has a period of youth because it must play.” – Karl Groos, German biologist 1861-1946


Because children, like baby animals, learn best through play, it is in our best interest to create enabling environments which will ensure that their play naturally fulfils the EYFS learning and development requirements. Here's how role play can incorporate all seven areas of learning and development.

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Posting in Play Collection

Where do your children post things?

One of my earliest recollections of nursery is lying on my tum peering through the slatted patio floor at the interesting things people had dropped through the cracks and wishing I could reach them! Anyone working with young children knows how they collect and transport small objects and find handy cracks or holes to drop them through. There is magic in making things disappear. When something goes missing, isn’t your first step to check the favourite posting places?

Our design team wanted a wide age range to enjoy our new Play Collection role play furniture. As well as enabling the role play and puppetry that three- to five-year-olds love, the team had fun imagining how two-year-olds might engage with each piece. The team leader took prototypes home to observe how his family would use them. While his older children engaged in role play, the youngest was happy turning knobs and opening and closing doors! What was the biggest hit for his two-year-old? The holes in the side of each unit to post things into!

A mum like my mum

A mum like my mum

Being a mother is surely the most creative, most challenging, most rewarding task on earth. It includes the total range of joy and pain. And even when things are most difficult, there’s this strong sense that “this is what I signed up for!”

I’m often amazed at the motherliness of even the littlest girls. One day my nursery children were discussing their life ambitions. A three-year-old said quietly, “I want to be a mummy like my mummy!” She is now. The wonderful thing is that all little girls can grow up to be mothers. Even those not blessed with their own children can find fulfilment mothering others – and the creative cycle repeats.

Ely and Caerau Children’s Centre

A visit to Ely and Caerau Children’s Centre

Respect is what strikes you at Ely and Caerau Children's Centre in South Wales: Respect for childhood, for families, for the community. Everything is carefully prepared with the children's well-being in mind. You sense that staff love their task by the lovely artistic touches in every corner.

Carolyn Asante, the manager, explained that staff observe the children continually to learn what excites them. At the end of each day they meet to reflect on children's involvement and plan accordingly for the next day. They have noticed that boys particularly like to be given practical challenges, such as "What can we do about this soggy patch in the garden?"

The team might base a whole context for learning on a child's comment. A child recently said something about a giant, so staff left a large note in the garden cave "I'VE LOST MY KEY!" and buried a big one. Next day the children searched and it became a treasure hunt that continued for days. Carolyn says, "This way of working is infectious! We are not bound by curriculum. We make everything fit round the child, not the other way round."

Click here to see more pictures and hear Carolyn share her vision

Fire station visit

A close call

As a child I wanted to be a fireman, driving fire engines with flashing lights and sirens, climbing ladders and rescuing people. What could be more thrilling? When we planned a booklet on children's imagination a few months ago, I knew what one of the stories had to be about.

Our photographer and I went to the local fire station with Mia and her father, Fred, a member of our fire team. One of the crew cheerfully drove the fire engine out and parked it where we could get a good shot. He left us to our photography but added, “You understand that if we get a call, we’ll need to go!” We assured him that we understood and got on with it. Mia was thrilled to do this with Dad but also a little nervous in this new and rather masculine environment. We finished and started packing up. The fireman returned to drive the engine back in... but just then three crew members rushed out yelling “CALL!” and they all jumped in. Off they went, lights flashing and siren sounding! That made Mia’s day. The next day she played it out on the PlayFrame.

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