Role Play & Small World Exploration (for 2 - 3 year olds)

Develop your 2-3yr old child's language and communication skills at home


Home Learning

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution

What to do?

Role play or small world play is when your child acts out events they have observed or imagined using props and their surroundings. Because your child is exercising their imagination role play can take place anywhere and with the most rudimentary props - they can use anything you have in your home to support their activity, no matter how mundane. A bedsheet can be a cape or a rope or laid out on the floor could represent a boat or a volcano; a cushion can be a car; your child’s imagination is incredibly powerful. A whole world can be made in miniature using wooden blocks and can provide the backdrop for fun and educational adventures.

Why engage in role play with your child?

When children engage in role play they are constantly developing their language skills through their interactions with you. By engaging with them and supporting their story as it develops your child will add new words to their ever-growing vocabulary bank. As your child invents people to interact with in their story you can support their play and scaffold their ideas. This will not only grow your child’s confidence but gives you the opportunity, as an active participant in their story, to explain situations and help your child understand the wider world.

An example of role play

You can help your child create a small town using everyday items from around your home to represent buildings, roads, people and animals. To teach your child about road safety, choose an item to represent you. This will be your character in the imaginary small world. Ask your child who they want to be, where they want to go. When it comes time to cross a road, move your character to the edge of the road and then stop, look and make sure it is safe to do so. Your child might suggest your characters hold hands to cross the road. By acting out this scenario your child will begin to understand the real life activity of crossing the road and the roles that you each play in real life.

The play scenarios can be adapted to doctors, school and other scenarios that your child is interested in and enjoys playing out. Once your child is engaged and enjoying the role play you can also extend role play, bring new characters, objects and situations into the play.

Small world play

Learning outcomes

Every activity we do at Avendale is purposefully designed with developmentally appropriate learning outcomes in mind. Role play and small world exploration can be used to assist children’s learning in these areas:

  • Language skills: communication, conversation, building vocabulary
  • Creative expression: creativity, role play, imagination,
  • Social skills: emotions, confidence, interactions, cooperative play

Key words

While you and your child are playing out an imaginary scenario you can focus on building specific vocabulary by deliberately using words they may not yet be familiar with. The words you choose to focus on will depend on your child’s current vocabulary. Example words to focus on may be:

  • person
  • animals
  • share
  • explore
  • build

Discuss with your child

Asking your child questions encourages them to think and engage in deeper learning. For instance, you could ask them:

  • Can I play with you?
  • Who is that? (Asking about a person or animal your child has imagined)
  • Shall we make a house for the people?

Age guide

There really is no upper age limit to when you can engage in role play with your children - it is relevant at any age. Of course, children’s interests and willingness to engage with you in this way will change over time. Regularly engaging in role play and small world exploration with your child when they are as young as 2 years old might well help you establish a closer bond and allow you to share in their imaginary adventures for many years to come!