Introducing Your Child to the Arts: Dramatic Play for Children
"I am not a historian. I happen to think that the content of my mother’s life—her myths, her superstitions, her prayers, the contents of her pantry, the smell of her kitchen, the song that escaped from her sometimes parched lips, her thoughtful repose
and pregnant laughter—are all worthy of art."
- August Wilson, playwright
Children of all ages love to pretend. As toddlers, they mimic things they see in everyday life. In preschool, they recreate familiar roles and events. By elementary school age, they act out stories, creating original plots, adapting fairy tales or children’s books. As children leave early childhood, they enter a new stage of drama that is a more formal type of play-acting—going on stage to present prepared scripts.
For young children, the theater arts are best thought of as informal endeavors that extend the natural habits of play and learning. In prekindergarten and elementary classes, children learn the basics of structuring their “pretending” for presentation to an audience. More advanced skills—acting, directing, scene and costume design, playwrighting, and stage management—come after elementary school.
In addition to creating theater in its many forms, children benefit from seeing it. Theater for young audiences, also known as children’s theater, is dramatic theater performed by professionals specifically for an audience of children.
As young children take part in drama, they gain many benefits:
- Knowledge of and skill in theater arts.
- Improved literacy skills—reading, writing, and speaking.
- Development of imagination and aesthetic awareness.
- Independent and critical thinking and increased ability to solve problems.
- Social growth and the ability to work with others.
- A healthy release of emotion.
- Fun and recreation.
Educational theater offers parents benefits as well:
- Time spent with their child in creative moments.
- Insights into the observations, impressions, interests, fears, and humor that their child reveals.
- Opportunities to witness their child’s developmental growth.
- The chance to help their child understand some of life’s dilemmas.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Endowment for the Arts.
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