DRAMATIC AND FANTASY PLAY
Dramatic and fantasy play involves imagination, creativity and role-play. A child may
choose to be someone else and try out new situations in a safe way. To do this the
child moves outside of his/herself to take on or relate to another character, object or
event. Through role-play the child is able to examine, interpret and understand the
complex nature of relationships and interactions and gain a sense of control over the

Dramatic and fantasy play has many developmental benefits for children. They
include the development of creativity, imagination, expression and spontaneity and
provides for emotional flexibility and opportunities to deal or ‘work’ through emotions.
Role-play assists children to explore moral dilemmas, test out choices and determine
the consequences of one’s actions. It also helps develop awareness, understanding
of others, communication skills and the ability to observe and be sensitive to another

      Play that is imaginative and constructive releases the child from the
      boundaries of actuality, therefore fostering flexibility of ideas. The
      same cardboard box can be a space-ship, a bed or a cage for a wild
      animal, according to the needs of the game. Children who are
      encouraged to re-assemble elements of an object to suit the
      requirements of play, are practising the type of productive thinking
      required in problem solving.

      Through play, humans of all ages may release tension in a safe and
      often creative way. The revues, skits and jokes written and presented
      during World War Two, as well as the spontaneous play on words from
      the man-on-the-street, are examples of the use of play for tension
      release. Studies of children under stress indicate that it is common for
      such children to act out their fears in their play, and so familiarise
      themselves with anxiety-provoking incidents. Through such play they
      can better comes to terms with whatever threatens. Play allows one to
      practise encounter and victory with what might have remained
      unstated fears.
                           (Technical Education Division, EDWA, p6.6, 1980)
Dramatic and fantasy includes:

  • using themes to act out roles eg. journey to space, visit to the hospital, circus
  • puppetry
  • masks and clowning
  • dancing and movement
  • charades
  • dressing up and role play
  • guided visualisations and stories
  • putting on concerts and shows.

Dramatic and fantasy play is enhanced and encouraged through the provision of a
wide selection of props and materials and through enthusiastic adults who support
and facilitate children’s play. Props and materials need to be changed regularly and
reflect the interests of the children. The use of video cameras to film productions and
shows is popular activity with older children.

Ideas for props and costumes
Dress-ups can be scrounged, purchased from opportunity shops and toy shops eg:
   • belts (eg. thin, wide, large buckles, fabric, leather)
   • scarves (eg. chiffon, woollen, lengths of material)
   • silky soft clothes (eg. nightwear, silk blouses, old ball gowns)
   • anything with glitter, sequins, lace (old dance costumes, evening wear)
   • unusual jackets, capes, poncho, coat and tails, shawls
   • shoes, boots, bags
   • hats, caps (collect hats that represent occupations eg. fireman, policeman)
   • jewellery, beads, fashion accessories
   • old curtains - lace and sheer curtains can be used for shawls, capes, veils

Body art and decoration
   • face paints and make-up
   • cream to remove make-up
   • stick on tattoos, body art textas
   • perfume
   • mirror and table, desk or dressing table for setting out the make-up

Puppets can be made from:
   • old socks
   • small boxes, paper plates
   • paper bags, cardboard cylinders, paper, paper mache
   • material and felt, wool, plastic eyes, buttons
   • a painted hand and finger

A puppet theatre can be made from
   • table placed on its side
   • large cardboard box (fridge, stove)
   • wooden crate.


        •   plastic flower pots can have a square cut from the front to expose the
            face, painted with silver or gold paint for a space mask
        •   alfoil and other shiny paper, gold and silver fabric, gold and silver paint,
            lots of boxes and other junk construction items to create a space village,
            rocket, space shuttle
        •   black fabric for the night sky - cardboard stars, planets etc
        •   wide leather belts can be spray painted silver or covered in alfoil
            overalls, bomber jackets, work shirts can be used for rocket mechanic
        •   material for space capes

   •    bright fabric can be used for clown pants, capes, ponchos
   •    juggling items, plastic skittles, sand filled juggling balloons, balls, plastic fruit
   •    ‘fire’ sticks made from cellophane and dowel/cardboard tubes
   •    circus tent - sheets, old marque, tarpaulins
   •    face paint for clown faces
   •    funny costumes, glitzy costumes - plenty of shine and sparkle

The popularity of singing and dance performers such as Spice Girls and Popstars
has led to many school age children wanting to arrange and perform their own
routines. To enhance and encourage concerts you may provide:

   •    tape/CD player
   •    make up
   •    hair spray and hair gel, hair rollers, hair dryer
   •    hair accessories, wigs, hair pieces
   •    costume jewellery
   •    dress ups with style and glitz.

   •    large mirror
   •    rollers, bobby pins, hair net, brushes, combs
   •    manicure set, emery boards and nail polish
   •    shaving cream, shaving brush, razors without blades
   •    hair care products, empty containers for shop display, wigs
   •    plastic basin, bowls
   •    magazines, chairs, table for waiting area
   •    reception desk, cash register, note pad and pens
   •    towels, capes
   •    hair gel, spray, glitter


When working with school age children it is important to show enthusiasm and
interest in children’s dramatic and fantasy play. How you respond to children,
participate and join in dramatic play will influence how the play progresses and
develops. The following hints will assist you to provide and facilitate dramatic and
fantasy play.

  • do not rush children - allow time for ideas to flourish, change and develop
  • get in role yourself, always respond to children’s roles with the appropriate role
  • use themes in the environment as well as in experiences and activities - this
    stimulates imagination
  • observe children carefully to assess what they are interested in and use this as
    a basis for a theme eg. A new music group has hit the charts and the children
    are singing the latest songs. Set up a music and dance area to encourage this
    further or even a TV studio to record the show.
  • encourage children to explore how they feel and interact to others - role
    reversal with children to model different responses and ways to interact
  • be flexible, follow the children’s directions
  • do not take over - allow children to carry out their own plans, observe how
    things are going, encourage children to ask for what they need, offer
    suggestions in a way that allows children to reject or accept the suggestions
    eg. “If you want a curtain for your cubby there is some material in the fabric

     During the school-age years, children engage in socio-dramatic play at
     a level that is more complex than when they were younger. Their make-
     believe play may revolve around fantasy or focus on themes from the real
     world (past or present). Play episodes can extend over several days or

     This type of play is most closely related to social development. It is an
     important way for children to learn how to get along with their peers.
     When playing with each other, children share information, offer
     suggestions, and sometimes tell each other how to behave. Children
     who are naturally shy may find it is easier to be part of a group when they
     can pretend to be someone else.

     The social skills developed through socio-dramatic play are used in
     almost all the other situations children encounter. For example, learning
     to follow the rules established by the group will help a child learn to play
     games and sports that involve rules.

     (Koralek, Newman & Colker, p146, 1995)

Koralek, D.G., Newman, R.L., & Colker, L.J., (1995) Caring for Children in School-
Age Programs: A Competency-Based Training Program, Volume 1 & 2, Teaching
Strategies, Washington.
Morgan, R., The Types of Play (unpublished).
Technical Education Division, EDWA (1980) Psychology 1G notes, Trust Publication,


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