In her book, "Creative Child," Dr. Dorothy Einon explains that 2-year-olds like to join in with pretend play with older children and adults by dressing up and performing simple actions. However, young children do not take on the role of other people in drama games until they are about 4 years old, once they have learnt how to "separate being someone else from pretending to be someone else." According to Paul Rooyackers, in his book, "101 Drama Games For Children," drama games for young children should provide a "dynamic form of play" that stimulates children's imaginations and encourages them to interact with each other.
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Dressing Up Games
According to Einon, it is important for little children to have opportunities for free-play drama games, allowing them to dress up in different outfits and "parade about." But you do not need to buy expensive ready-made costumes. Fill a box with a variety of adaptable items such as shawls, large pieces of fabric, gloves, hats, jewellery, dolls, handbags and discarded mobile phones. Ensure that all items are safe for young children to use in their play. Little children like to engage in drama games that reflect their life experiences and areas of interest, so observe their play and introduce appropriate new items for the dressing up box. Add new contexts for children's role play by reading quality picture stories and then keep the books nearby so that children can refer to them during their play.
Warm-ups and Name Games
In addition to free-play drama games, introduce simple warm-ups and name games to help young children develop awareness of themselves and of others. Stand in a circle and shake first one arm, then the other. Shake one leg and then the other one. Finally, shake your whole body and shout "Funky Chicken!" Say your name followed by a simple gesture or movement, for example, a wave or a hop and then let the children introduce themselves with their own accompanying gestures or movements. Sit in a circle and show children how to release tension in their jaws and facial muscles by pretending to chew a toffee. Then pretend that you are tasting a sour lemon. Finally, imagine you are sucking through a straw by pursing your lips. Encourage children to really exaggerate their facial expressions when you do these exercises.
Nursery Rhyme Games
Familiar, traditional nursery rhymes provide an excellent starting point for more structured drama games with little children. Drama teacher Matt Buchanan, at the Child Drama website, suggests a role play activity called, "Nursery Rhyme Charades," whereby children take turns to mime the actions of a character from a nursery rhyme. In preparation for this drama game, sing a variety of nursery rhymes frequently with the children and show them pictures of nursery rhyme characters. Then show children examples of how to perform actions and mimes. For example, you could present the character of "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary" by pretending to dig and plant seeds in the ground.
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