E is 4 years old and is frequently drawn to creative activities. She enjoys role play area and getting involved in imaginative play. I observed E engage in role play along with a small group of children and assessed her growing abilities to direct her own play, to make decisions about materials and props, and to assert her own ideas and opinions about what she wants to play. (My observation notes are included in Appendix 1.)
As part of our ‘Listening to Children’ initiative, we have a circle time about the topic we are going to learn next term. During one of these sessions, we talked about ‘Traditional Tales’ and E had expressed that the role play area should be a theatre which was supported by many of her friends and the decision was made on developing a theatre role play area. Through a series of mind maps, we decided on what the theatre should look like. With due respect to children’s ideas, opinions and advice, the theatre was set up, along with a dressing room and the box office. The children, E most of all, were really excited to create their very own theatre. She talked about her mother being an actor and father being a film maker. She shared her experiences about being behind the scenes in theatre with her friends. Over the period of next couple of weeks the children organised and reorganised the role play area, making changes in the dressing up clothes and props of their interest. (The photographs of the theatre are attached as Appendix 2.)
I observed that E particularly showed interest in role playing ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ so I decided to develop this play to stimulate her cognitive development, and therefore use it in supporting the development of her specific areas of learning, Literacy, Mathematics, Understanding the World and Expressive Art and Design as well (Development Matters in EYFS). I set up a Traditional Tales Interest table, which was equipped with some traditional tales, some fiction and non-fiction books for the children to compare and contrast, character props, and various proformas for mark making. I put out a big book of Little Red Riding Hood as focus text. A camera was in hand all the time for children to take photographs during the play.
Initially I played with the children with lots of role modelling and encouraging the vocabulary. As the children’s confidence grew I was able to step back and observe the play from a distance and assess their growing ability. Occasionally I intervened to extend the play by adding new props, introducing new words or ideas, modelling a new role or making a suggestion but letting them make their own decision.
Reflection of my Practice:
On reflection of my practice in supporting children during this child initiated play activity, I have realized that there are elements of good practice as well as areas of development.
I have observed how play supports children’s growing abilities to express themselves uniquely and creatively, to explore new materials, and to use familiar materials in new and more complex ways. I have followed the guidance principles of Development Matters in Early Years throughout the activity. By observing E’s interests towards role play and respecting her needs I have followed the Unique Child guidance. I then developed Positive Relations with her to develop her confidence and I created an Enabling Environment to stimulate and develop her learning through play.
I constantly asked myself how can I take advantage of this play in supporting children’s cognitive development, and further build on it. I reflect on how I can initiate further play experiences that will deepen the learning that has already begun, and also support learning in the domains of maths, and language and literacy, hence meeting the required standards in all of these areas. I then plan accordingly.
I took advantage of E’s high interest and engagement in role playing Red Riding Hood by planning for