18 Oct The Benefits of Drama for Children
In this blog we take a look at the benefits of drama for nursery-aged children. Within our nurseries we introduce drama in the form of imaginative and pretend role-play, art, music and dance. Rather than acting or performing, the emphasis at this age is very much on play. Play is recognized as one of the main ways in which children learn both within the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum and our nurseries.
Claire, Manager at Startel Day Nursery explains the role drama plays at Startel: “Role-play areas are introduced roughly at age 1, and this plays a huge part in their development and is often where the children can explore freely allowing us to observe the children in a way that shows their best skills. For example at this age they love to use a broom to pretend to sweep the floor. By the time the children are 3-4 and in Rainbow room they have a vast knowledge of experiences which they can imitate in the role-play areas. Whilst they play and pretend, you can see clearly the drama skills which most children have learnt by this age. Lots of their role-play will be based on things they have seen at home this is why we try to always have a ‘home corner’ as well as a ‘role-play area’. When observing children in the role-play areas you can often cross reference their learning into many different areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage this allows staff to challenge the children further and explore new ‘drama’ skills.”
Through role-play at an early age, children can develop a wide range of valuable personal skills. Let’s take a look at a few of the benefits drama can have:
Movement and Coordination Skills
This LinkedIn article from Dharini Upadhyaya talks about the benefits of combining music and movement for young children: “Young children love a blend of music, movement, rhythm and dance. This combination allows them to enjoy the music and express themselves. Music and movement together provide many benefits to the social, mental and physical development in children. Moreover incorporating music and movement in early childhood education helps young children with social interaction and language growth.”
When following instructions – for instance when Miss Katie from Dance Kids visits the nurseries to teach dance, the children learn not only to move and coordinate themselves, but how to cooperate, concentrate, and communicate with one another. They learn team work skills including spacial awareness and letting one another take turns.
Scholastic explains how role-play helps children to express themselves freely and to express emotions they might be feeling, in a safe and fun environment. For example, “Pretend play also allows your children to take risks safely as they express their points of view. Three year old’s like to play-act scenarios about things they know, such as family situations. For example, they may express their real needs when they pretend to be “the baby” as a new little brother presents a home-front challenge by getting lots of attention.”
Our music coach Irani and our Sports Coach Nick know all about movement and self-expression during the Sports and Music Coaching they teach in our nurseries. Coach Nick’s Football and Multi-skills sessions encourage children to be active and to learn agility and coordination, and Music Coach Irani believes music and musical instruments gives children an opportunity to “let it all out”.
This article ‘The Importance of Self-Expression and Creativity in Every Child also reminds us: “One thing that’s so wonderful about creative art and the self-expression that comes along with it is that it’s so easy to provide.” How true! Pretend play doesn’t have to involve expensive elaborate props. Even the simplest object around the home can ignite a child’s imagination. Who remembers having fun playing with the empty box a birthday or Christmas present came in? A cardboard tube becomes a ship captain’s telescope, a flattened box becomes a sleigh on snowy days, and a blanket or bed sheet becomes the finest of King’s robes.
Language & Memory Skills
Drama can have a positive impact on a child’s language and memory skills. Whether they’re learning their line in a play or remembering where they need to stand on stage, both these skills are being used. Every year our nurseries put on a festive production for their parents and families. The children enjoy singing carols, wearing their animal or star-shaped costumes and being on stage with their friends. Learning the songs or speaking like a particular character helps to develop pronunciation and diction in young children.
Confidence & Creativity
Even if your child shows no interest in being a professional actor or a musician in later life, drama at an early age can help nurture a talent for singing, dance or music and sow the seeds for a life-long hobby or past time which gives them great joy and confidence. The breathing tools and techniques professional actors and musicians use to calm their nerves before a performance can be taught as part of dramatic play. Breathing techniques can help with voice control and control nerves when public speaking or in an exam or interview situation in their later school life.
Above all, drama allows children to immerse themselves in play and to ‘transform’. Visiting the role-play area at nursery and putting on a costume, mask, or wig is where children can mimic real-life scenarios or adult roles they see around them, for instance a parent at work, a doctor, police officer, fire fighter or ambulance driver. Who knows – the dressing up box might inspire them to become a doctor or fire fighter when they grow up. If we cast our own minds back to 1969 when our founder director opened her first nursery and, as we look forward to celebrating our 50th anniversary next year, who would have thought that 50 years on, her own children are now directors of the company and carrying on her vision for our day nurseries.
We do hope you have enjoyed finding out about the benefits of drama for young children. For children who’d enjoy a creative outlet, there are local theatre workshops and dance groups for families to get involved in. The Polka Theatre in Wimbledon offers activities and workshops for children from 3 years of age, Stagecoach is available in many towns for children 4 years+, and DanceKids works with pre-school aged children right through to 6-18 year olds.
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