January is a busy month in our family; it’s Little One’s birthday, his dad’s and uncle’s too. Although birthday parties can be fun, they can also be daunting for children – usually they’re filled with new faces, packed with new experiences and more times than not, they’re based in a new environment.

 Why Role-Play?

A brilliant way to manage your child’s party nerves, role-play is a fun activity with many learning outcomes. By using role-play your little one will be able to act out the scenarios they may be faced with. Not only does this enable our children to become familiar with un-familiar events, it also helps them feel in control.

Making time and space for ‘Let’s Pretend’ play is so important for our child’s emotional, physical and intellectual development. Plus, role-play targets many areas in the school curriculum such as, Maths, Literacy and Science.

The Parents’ Role

When you first set up your role-play or Small World Play, help your little one get involved by showing them how to play along, how you use the equipment, how you play the role.

Types of Birthday Party Role-Play (age range 2 years – rising 5s)

 It’s Time for a Tea Party!

 What you’ll need:

  • Coloured / scented playdough (see below for homemade recipe)
  • Candles – (make some simple paper numbers, 1-5)
  • Confetti pieces (found at most gift shops or made from scrap paper)
  • Children’s tea set / cutlery / baking set
  • Table cloth / tea towel / napkin (optional)
  • Teddies / any guests that Little One wants at the tea party

Playdough Recipe:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 table spoons of oil
  • 1/2 cups of salt
  • 2 table spoons of cream tartar
  • Food colouring
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups of water

–  Language and Literacy, Numbers and Counting –

What to do:

To begin, explain to Little One that you have set up a pretend birthday party. When you first set out the role play, only use the playdough, candles and paper cases – let’s add different elements slowly, to inspire them play for longer. Use your hands to manipulate the dough and slowly introduce more party props over the following days/play sessions. As the role-play activity expands, the interest and the play ideas extend and develop.

Set up your lovely table and sit at the party with your little one. Together, with your hands, roll your playdough into shapes – round shapes, sausage shapes, flat shapes. The skill of patting, rolling and moulding can be introduced or practiced; this is vital for strengthening little fingers and in developing their fine motor control.

When you’re ready, gather some playdough together and create a cake-shape, putting your candles into it. Which number shall we use? How many candles should we put on the cake? How old are you? Can you point out where number 2 or 3 is?  Sing, ‘Happy Birthday.’ Ask your little one who is coming to the party and after they’ve decided, ask them about how many plates they will need. Encourage Little One to give each teddy a slice of cake; one piece for you and one piece for teddy!

After, sit with them for a little while and let Party Play unfold. Drink your cup of tea and watch as they independently talk, count and play.

It’s important that when they have finished role-play, all of the equipment – the table, chairs, tea set – is put in a space that is easily accessible. If your little one can access their toys, they are encouraged to play Tea Party whenever they fancy.

Let’s make cards and hats!

 What you’ll need:

  • White card (this will be the band for the hat) cut into broad strips long enough to go around your child’s head
  • Tissue cut into strips for tassels (optional)
  • Crepe paper to create body of hat (optional)
  • Crayons / felt pens
  • small, coloured paper shapes
  • glue sticks
  • sellotape / stapler
  • number stickers (optional)

 – Mark-making and Writing, Maths and Patterns  –

 What to do:

Create a space on your table for your creative play. Place all of your equipment down and begin to decorate the white card / hat band with patterns or pictures. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate some simple line patterns. Drawing from left to right, show Little One a zig-zag or a wavy, swirly line. Try to use different coloured pens for each pattern.

Using your small paper shapes, (cut from some left-over white paper, leaflets or old magazines ) demonstrate a simple circle or square pattern. Glue the shapes onto your white card. Now that your little one has watched you design part of a simple party hat, can they design one of their own (maybe this game will inspire them to collage). When you’ve finished drawing and glueing, remember to measure and sellotape (or staple) the two ends of your card together so that it can loop around your child’s head.

Sit back and let them create.

Party gifts for our friends! 

What you’ll need:

  • A collection of boxes (small / medium)
  • Some toys from around your house

– Maths and Measurement –

What to do:

Simply add this prop to Party Play. Let’s make some presents. Which toys will fit into these boxes? It’s a great opportunity to use language for measurement: too big, too small etc. How many dinosaurs can we fit into this gift box? Let your little one place each toy inside the right sized box and hand them out to their party guests.

Let’s play party games!

 What you’ll need:

  • A selection of your little ones favourite music
  • Some speakers / iPod

-Toddler-Tech, Personal and Emotional  – 

What to do:

Musical statues is a fantastic way for your child to use technology carefully and under instruction. This is a wonderful opportunity for them to be introduced to delicate, everyday technology. Can they start and stop the music? This role-play requires your child to follow the simple rules of the game and may also teach them to accept the possibility that they won’t win. How delightful it will be when your toddler goes to their next party and are able to recognise Musical Statues!

What gifts did we get?

What you’ll need:

  • Small toys
  • Tray
  • Tea towel / cloth

– Memory-recall – 

What to do:

This is a memory game. Place the toys onto a tray. Pretend that each toy is a gift from Party Play and ask your little one to try remember all of them. Cover the tray with a cloth and, discreetly, remove one toy. When you unveil the tray, ask them to recall what is missing. Before you begin this game, explain and model the rules to your little one. This is a simple game that will help your little one develop strategies for recalling and remembering events and images.

We hope you enjoyed our first role-play post – Happy Playing!