The 3 Ps Of Dramatic Play

Revised | Originally Published: July 3, 2021 @ 4:28 pm

The 3 Ps of dramatic play are Planning, Preparing, And Playing. The first two involve world-building, and the last involves exploring the world they have created.

In the Planning stage, children design the world where they will eventually play based on their interests, knowledge, and experience. In this stage, they outline their play, create a narrative, devise a theme. This may be a cooperative venture, or one child may lead the planning. “I’m the mom, and you’re the kid, and Brenda is the cat, and we’re going shopping.”

In the Preparing stage, children organize the world. They collect or create props, don costumes, and arrange the play space. They add structure to their planning. Some children enjoy this stage more than the play itself. For them, it is a chance for creative expression. “We need to make a store and find a shopping bag and a cat leash. I can write signs for the store, and the purple jump rope can be the leash. I’ll make a cat collar from pipe cleaners and beads.”

In the Playing stage, the world-building is complete, and children explore what they have planned and prepared. “Kid? Can you pick out some bananas for Mommy? And hold that leash tight, or Kitty will run off.”

None of the 3 Ps of dramatic play should be rushed. Children need large chunks of uninterrupted time for dramatic play. They should also be entrusted with as much control over each stage as possible. Adult interference with this cycle disempowers children–taking away opportunities to practice conversation skills, social skills, planning skills, and more. For example, sometimes adults decide the theme for dramatic play should be Farmer’s Market, Veterinary Office, or Ice Cream Shoppe. Then they spend an evening or weekend, transforming the play space when the children are not around. They make it Instagram-ready.

While such spaces look cute on social media, they also steal much of the planning and preparing stages from the children–and much of the potential learning. Respecting children to manage the 3 Ps of dramatic play shows you trust them to lead their own learning.

Also, note that the 3 Ps of dramatic play hold true beyond the confines of the dramatic play corner. For example, children engage in this cycle of planning, preparing, and playing during small world play in the block area and superhero adventures on the playground.

The 3 Ps Of Dramatic Play PDF Handout

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Jeff Johnson is an early learning trainer, podcaster, and author and the founder of Explorations Early Learning and Playvolution HQ.

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