Why do children play role-playing games

Why role-play games are so important for children

Luisa, almost 3, and her friend Charlotte go shopping today - of course only in the game. Luisa drives the stroller, inside is her doll, which represents the baby, and Charlotte plays the family dog ​​and crawls next to her on all fours. In the "shop" Luisa then professionally buys small cardboard boxes, and Charlotte panted and nudged Luisa ...

RPG is a social game

Three years is the typical age at which children their surroundings as a stage for an infinite fantasy world in which they take on the roles of parents, different professions or fantasy figures. (See also the box: "Playing needs to be learned") However, role play is not something that is suddenly added to the table - in fact, children have worked towards it from infancy, so to speak. "In the early forms of play, children build up the skills they need need in role play, ”explains Lena S. Kaiser, professor for childhood studies at the University of Emden / Leer: "In the first year of life they first discover their own body, and soon they also play with objects. When playing parallel, it becomes very interesting to see what other children are doing nearby, and even with very simple movement games like running away and catching, children learn to look at each other communicate and set up common rules. "

Role play is a social game - it's just less fun without other children. As with construction games, children are rarely alone, but instead seek reinforcement from their peers, siblings or parents. Communicate with each other? No problem: Because you can do it without language. When the language skills are added, it quickly becomes much more complex.
Of course, role play can also include racing around or building a great cave house, but something like this is becoming more and more a means to an end - because these activities have to fit the role.Disguise is often one of them. A costume - even if it is just a towel that becomes a cloak or a headband that becomes a crown - helps you put yourself in a role. For Lena S. are Kaiser Fantasy roles, with which children put themselves in fictional worlds, "special development moments and development engines". Organizing these invented worlds and finding your own role in them in the truest sense of the word offers completely different opportunities and challenges to play with things: "That goes beyond the reproduction of everyday worlds. When children design a reality according to their own rules, the role scripts are no longer as clear as when they are simply playing 'family'. That means they design completely new patterns of action for their characters and coordinate them with one another. "
The children thus - quite incidentally - provide a great transfer service. Your Everyday experiences are, so to speak, the springboard to try out concepts of action in completely new situations: depending on the role, for example at the court ball, the big fire, the big cup final or when feeding the pet ... "I-expansion" is what the Passau psychology professor Hans Mogel calls it - and the The term already indicates the benefit: You learn something new, you expand your reach.

You are welcome to actively participate!

Whatever the current game world looks like: Parents can support role-playing games in a variety of ways in everyday life - without much effort.
Actually, you only need two things: some space and utensils that can be used in a variety of ways. For example a large cloth: it can be a cave, but it can also be a cloak, a tent or a magic carpet. "Ideal," says Lena S. Kaiser, "are things that are meaningless and open to use, and everyday utensils - from worn high heels to accessories such as chains - are even better suited than ready-made toys" (which is always a certain game -Presents purpose).

The support from parents also has a tangible psychological effect, as Professor Kaiser explains: "Children perceive that their game is recognized and that parents are interested in what they are doing."
And of course the parents can, if the children ask them, to be involved in the game: in the assigned roles and with the rules that the child sets for the game. Because even if children are good developers of games and can do it on their own, especially for smaller children, "attachment and exploration are very closely related," says Lena S. Kaiser. That means: the safer and more secure the child is feels in his family situation, the sooner he is ready to venture beyond the usual - for example in a role in which he is big and strong and fearless.

Lena S. Kaiser suggests that parents who accept the invitation to play not only start with their own action repertoire, but also let themselves be inspired by the child as director, for example asking: Who am I playing? Am I a brave cat or a little brother with magical abilities?

The great thing for children (without their knowing it) is that they learn empathy in role play. By empathizing with someone else - their role - they try out social behaviors. The role play is the perfect opportunity for parents to find out what topics their child is currently dealing with. Lena S. Kaiser describes it as follows: "It tells us that the child has had an experience, has understood something. Behind this there is always a developmental achievement. The implicit is made explicit by the child processing experiences, re-staging them and thus becoming Expresses. "

It is also clear: be in the game not just the happy moments processed. Also Fears, internal conflicts, or conflicts in the family can appear in role play. However, as Lena S. Kaiser says with determination, "this should not tempt parents to approach the topic with a concern. Children act out what they have experienced, but they also look for solutions. Also if it may sometimes seem wild or a sad topic is taken up: in all cases, the child uses it to clarify his relationship with the world. ”To accompany children in this process and to identify their topics and interests - that is then the task of the adults.
The role play reveals a lot about what preoccupies the child - but can there be too much imagination - for example, if the child remains trapped in role play for too long? Here, too, Lena S. Kaiser generally sees no cause for concern: "A game world like this can drag on for weeks. The parents' job is simply to take a closer look. For children, the actions in the game are real, they can play with them sink in and enjoy a moment of freedom and infinity. But they also know how to clearly distinguish their game from reality. "

By the way, Charlotte and Luisa simply quickly changed roles on their way back home from shopping: Now Luisa romps around Charlotte's legs as a dog, and Luisa sighs theatrically at how heavy the stroller has become because of the online shopping. Life as a parent is not that easy - that's a very important learning effect ...

Playing needs to be learned - how role play fits into child development

Playing begins with babies - and gradually becomes more and more complex: This is how experts classify the various stages of development:

What is being playedIn which age?What is happening there?
Functional game0 - 1.5 yearsExperience your own body, enjoy repetitions
Symbol game /
Fantasy game
1.5 - 3.5 yearsImitate
Construction game2 - 6 years

Building with different materials

role playing game2.5 - 6 yearsInventing actions and roles
Rule game4 - 8 years

Playing according to rules and with a specific goal