Headstart for Life

Let’s do role play!

Hi there! Welcome back to HeadStart for Life’s blog – Beyond Therapy! Today we’ll be discussing… Role Play!

Role play is a term used to describe a kind of play where a person acts as if he or she is someone or something else. While children do the role play, they are actually applying their social skills, namely the ability to put oneself in another’s place and to see things from the point of view of another person. Role playing brings advantages to children, it helps them to develop a better understanding of others’ viewpoints, strengthen one’s empathic ability and emotional intelligence, and gain a sense of power and control by playing the role of powerful figures. Apart from that, it also allows a necessary psychological distance to reveal one’s thoughts and affects. In today’s article, I would like to suggest some ideas of carrying out role play with our children. Here we go!

1. Charades 

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A charade or a guessing game is a very popular game for adult and children. In this kind of role play, we act out a word without any sound until other players get to guess the word correctly. To prepare the game, you can write down the feeling words (happy, sad, disgust, embarrassed, proud, guilty), animals (dolphin, eagle, tiger), occupations (doctor, chef, photographer), vehicles (train, helicopter, ship), or any themes to make the game more fun! Every player takes a turn picking up a slip of paper and then act out the word written on it, using only facial expression and body language to demonstrate the word. Children have to put themselves into that particular role in order to enable other players to guess the word correctly.


2. Toy animation 

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When we give a toy a voice and an identity, then the toys become animated as we make them come alive in the magical world of the play! We can ask children to speak as the people, animals, or objects on their fantasy play or even drawings. For example, tell him “You be that lion. What does it say?” While transforming dolls, trucks, and puppets into personified characters, this toy animation provides the safety of psychological distance that can facilitate the expression of emotion. This method can be a powerful tool to enable children safely express their internal needs, problems, and conflicts.


3. Role reversal

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Role reversal means to adopt a role that is the reverse of what one usually assumes in relation to someone else. For example, change a role with our children, ask him or her to be the father or mother and we, as the adult to be the children. You can even do a role-play how you typically acts when he or she has done something naughty. This method can also be used to prepare an unforeseen situation for children, like undergoing a medical procedure. Your child can play a role of doctor pretending to give you an injection with medical toys, and we can pretend to be a worried patient and try to model some coping skills. Through this practice, children can learn to practice a more adaptive response in facing a challenging condition.


4. Use children’s own experience as a theme

Last but not the least, your child’s experience is a raw material for a role-playing theme. You can assume a different role and take turns with your child to act out a scenario related to his or her experience. For example, you can ask them to play out a “starting school” scenario with you acting as the teacher and him playing himself or herself. With the practice of role play, it can make this new situation more familiar to our children and provide an opportunity for them to practice coping skills. Consequently, it will help to reduce their stress in facing a social scenario, and thus increase their confidence.

In short, role play has been found to significantly contribute to young children’s cognitive, emotional and social development. Since there are many variations of role play, do adapt the idea to your own preference. I hope this article will give you some insight about role play. So, now, let’s switch a role with our kids and pretend to go to a doctor, or hold a truck and grant them your voice to make it alive, or even act out the word silently and ask your children to guess what it is, let’s start the role play!



Schaefer C. E. & Cangelosi D. (2016) Essential play therapy techniques. New York: The Guilford Press.

"All the information on this site is for educational purposes only and does not replace the assessment and intervention of a registered speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist or any other medical or education professional."

About Freya

Freya has been working with children with special needs for four years and has a strong interest in Social Skills Training. In her time with children, she believes that “Understanding the child’s ability is the key”. She is grateful for the opportunities to grow and learn together with all the children she has met and also to be their companion.

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