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Playing “House” in the Preschool

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Early childhood education theorist Maria Montessori stated that “play is the work of the child.” Throughout the day in the Bixby Preschool, our youngest students are working hard through their play. Whether we are inside or out, have props or none at all, children at Bixby can be seen playing “house” or “family.” Children are heard saying, “I’ll be the mom,” “I’ll be the dad,” or “I’ll be the big sister.” This type of play gives children a chance to learn and develop important social, physical, and literacy skills.

As children negotiate with each other over who will hold which role, they are strengthening their social skills. “What should I cook for dinner?” “Can you watch baby?” These questions come up as children play out their chosen roles. As children play out scenes from their world, they are developing important skills they can build upon later.

Dressing for the roles of “mom,” “dad,” or “big sister” allow children to practice self-help and fine motor skills. Bixby’s dress up area contains vests, dresses, scarfs, and much more (although capes seem to be a favorite with every role) that give children abundant opportunities for growth. The fine motor skills they use to button a vest or zip up a dress lead to handwriting skills in the future.

As children play out their characters they practice language and gain valuable literacy skills. To answer the question of “what’s for dinner?” a child at Bixby offered, “Spinosaurus soup.” As children deepen their play, extended dialogues and new vocabulary begin to emerge.

One of the most striking findings about play comes from research in which play has been shown to promote early brain development. Children’s brains become primed to be more adaptable in life, especially with social skills and executive functions (Pellis, Pellis, & Himmler, 2014). Playing “house” or “family” is not just a fun activity for kids, but an important part of childhood development. What happy memories do you have playing as a child?

Pellis, S.M., V.C. Pellis, & B.T. Himmler. 2014. “How Play Makes for a More Adaptable Brain: A Comparative and Neural Perspective.” American Journal of Play 7 (1): 73–98.


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