Role Play: Daddies, Doctors & Dragons

Role play (also known as dramatic play, fantasy play and pretend play) helps children make sense of the world. As well as engaging their imagination and creativity, it helps them understand and cope with real-life situations.

It can also give us clues as to things a child is struggling with, interested in or trying to make sense of.

Benefits Of Role Play

Role play has many benefits. It helps children:

  • relieve anxiety
  • learn social skills
  • develop language skills
  • understand symbols
  • understand others' perspectives.

Ideas For Role play

Role play should always be initiated by children, otherwise they will lose interest. But by providing a good selection of props, and suggesting ideas, you will stimulate role play. 

Here are some roles (and activities) children might like to enact:

Doctor (treating a patient)
Parent (cooking, shopping, bathing a baby)
Cafe owner (making coffee, serving people)
Astronaut (exploring space)
Fire fighter (fighting fires, rescuing people)
Dragon (flying, breathing fire)
Fairy tale character
Superhero (flying, rescuing people)
Pirate (searching for treasure)
Vet (helping sick animals)

Essential equipment

Playcentre recommends the following as a minimum for early learning centres:

Storage for dress-up clothes
Storage for dolls' clothes and bedding
Storage for other accessories
Small table and chairs
Child's bed and bedding
Doll's bed and bedding
Cooking pots
Plastic or wooden fruit and vegetables
Cooking utensils
Telephones (minus long connecting wires)
Tea-set and cutlery
Dolls and dolls' clothes
Doll's high chair
Items for washing dishes
Children's clothes line
Items for washing dolls' clothes
Items for bathing dolls
Items for shopping
Items for cleaning
Items for dressing up
Full length mirror (laminated) 
Medical play kit

See the Playcentre basic equipment list


Providing a good selection of accessories will encourage greater depth and variety of play.

Face paint
Ironing board and iron
Books and bookshelf
Telephone directory
Salt and pepper shakers
Fridge (wooden)


  • Have a well-equipped and organised role-playing area.
  • Use theme boxes to organise props.
  • Encourage play outside as well as inside.
  • Consider face-painting.
  • If it's OK with the children, join in!

Te Whāriki & Role Play

Role play relates to all Strands Te Whāriki.

To learn more about Te Whāriki, visit the website.

Our thanks to the Auckland Playcentre Shop for permission to use this article. Great play starts here.