Importance of Role Playing

In this blog we will be exploring the importance of role playing and how it is an effective way for children to make sense of the world around them.  Role playing also supports children to:

  • Develop their communication and language skills
  • Act out and make sense of real-life situations
  • Explore, investigate and experiment
  • Develop their social skills, as they collaborate with others
  • Learn to empathise with others, as taking on the role of a character which help them to learn empathy and understanding of different perspectives
  • Learn about different cultures
  • Express their ideas and feelings in a relaxed environment
  • Develop awareness of themselves and others
  • Be creative and use their imagination!

Role playing is especially beneficially for developing language. This is for both children with English as an additional language and for native English speakers. As well as vocabulary and language, role play develops toddlers communication skills as they communicate with each other in a safe environment. Role play is the most effective way of acquiring language!

Young child doing a role play activity in a pretend shop

The good news is that you don’t need lots of expensive toys and resources to encourage role playing activities. You’ll find items that you already have in your nursery and at home (often everyday things!) can spark children’s imaginations and prompt role playing activities.

Examples of role playing activities include:


  • you could use everyday food items, such as fruits and vegetables, cereal boxes and tins of food, and set them up around the room for children to add to their ‘basket’ or ‘trolley’ (small cardboard boxes work well). If you have a toy till, children might like to take ‘payment’ for the food, and you could even make some fake money to be used in their shop.


  • similar to the supermarket set up, you could set up other shop environments, such as a:


  • ask children to draw and/or cut-out images of flowers and arrange them in bouquets with ribbons.

Shoe Shop

  • ask children to measure their feet- colour photos of different shoes- pay for shoes with fake money.

Pet Shop

  • ask children to act out different animals- print off items that different pets might need, e.g. a water bowl, food, collar, and get children to walk around the shop and collect and pay for the items they need.


  • encourage children to dress up and pretend to be a baker. They could choose what types of bread and other baked items they want to bake and serve to their customers. You could use food models, empty food packets (just be mindful of allergies) or items you’ve made from crafts (such as boxes, paper, containers).

Other shop environment could include: a post office, farm shop, toy shop and cafe.


Household Activities

  • if you’ve got a home corner in your setting, then you could encourage children to do role play activities, such as sweeping, ironing, laundry and cleaning. You could use old equipment that’s no longer in use (if appropriate), toys or improvise and create your own!

Doctors and Dentists

  • children will enjoy wearing stethoscopes, prescribing medicines and treating other children. They can take turns playing doctors, nurses and patients and think of what ailments they will cure.


  • you could use small chairs or cushions to recreate the passenger rows of an aeroplane. Children will enjoy taking it in turns to be the pilots and passengers, and recreating what they encounter on flights.

Construction Engineers

  • encourage children to build towers out of building blocks/Lego bricks and to use toy tools to fix broken items.

Role Playing Activities - doctor, space ship, cooking and shop

Role playing activities - baby care, fire service, tea party and construction worker

How to support children’s learning:

  • Ask focused open ended questions, rather than closed questions.
  • Take on a role and join in with children’s role playing and dressing up. This gives value to their play and reinforces the importance of role playing.

Early Start Nurseries

Here at Early Start Nurseries, we foster an environment that encourages children to enjoy a variety of role playing activities.

Want to know more? Head over to the Nurseries section to see our nurseries in East London (opens in new tab).

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