Apr 06 2022 Act It Out: 6 Simple Ideas for Using Dramatic Play with Stories
Categories:Fun with Kids
How can you bring playful drama and theater activities into your relationship with your grandchild ages 5–10? Theater activities can be a fun — and sometimes silly — way to engage with your grandchild while stimulating their development.
Young children naturally explore imaginative play, taking on different roles and bringing stories to life. Dramatic play can help children foster creative thinking, develop empathy, build social skills, and generate impactful memory retention. By encouraging this type of play and joining in the fun, grandparents can deepen the bond with their grandchild while creating lasting memories.
This idea is also rooted in our Jewish tradition. For example, we read in the haggadah that we are to retell the Passover story “as if we ourselves” were there experiencing it. This imagination-driven approach can be applied across the canon of Jewish holiday stories, activating each ritual and celebration through play.
Click HERE for the video recording “Grandparents, Bring Your Family Seder to Life.”
Here are 6 simple ideas for dramatic play with stories:
Pick a Story to Stage
With your grandchild, decide on a story to bring to life. The story can be drawn from a picture book that your grandchild loves (here are some great ideas), or a story from Jewish tradition that you’d like to share (Purim and Passover offer lots of dramatic play possibilities).
For children ages 3–6, start small by enacting only one part of the story and build on that based on the interest they show. For ages 8–10, review the story together, either by rereading the book together, or retelling the story with your grandchild. Boil the story down to a beginning, middle, and ending scene. Ask your grandchild to recount it: “What happens at the beginning? Then what happens? How does the story end?”
Set the Stage
Find an open space to play together. Collect objects from around the house to create your setting, like bed sheets, chairs, and pillows. Ask your grandchild to be the designer and you can be the helper.
Choose Your Characters
Decide which character you will each play; for example, you might play Pharaoh and your grandchild can play Moses. Start with, “Let’s pretend we are _____.” Move like your character. Talk like your character. Ask your grandchild what you can do to be more like the character you choose. Let them direct you!
Plan Your Costumes
Use items from your closet to create costumes together. Be silly and creative by using hats, ties, scarves, and other items. Become costume designers for each other by picking items for the other person to wear.
Pick Some Music
Together choose background music to support your production. Ask your grandchild to choose their favorite song. It doesn’t matter if it’s inappropriate for the story! You can also find sound effects online to help set the scene. Or create your own sound effects with pot lids, wooden spoons, a xylophone, rustling paper, or any other objects your grandchild chooses.
Start the Action
Now that you have your characters, costumes, and settings, it is time to bring the story to life. Together, say “1, 2, 3, Action!” and get ready to act it out. You can decide on a few lines each person will say in advance, or just make it up together as you play. Let your grandchild direct the creative play and take their lead. Once you finish the scene, say “cut” or “The End.” Ask your grandchild if they want to do it again. You can also try switching roles!
How can you make imaginative play become a regular part of your time together? Being silly together and going on creative adventures will make a lasting impression on you and your grandchild, while offering them essential skills that will serve them as they grow.
You can also use dramatic activities to bring holidays and Jewish stories to life throughout the year. For more ideas, explore Play-Along Parsha as a weekly resource to bring Torah to life through simple dramatic play.
Jonathan Shmidt Chapman is an internationally recognized artist and educator in the field of Theater for Young Audiences and Jewish education. He is the recipient of The Jewish Education Project’s 2020 Young Pioneers Award, which recognizes forward thinking and innovation in the field of Jewish Education. He is the co-creator and co-founder of K’ilu Kits, audio adventures that bring Jewish holiday stories to life at home, and Play-Along Parsha, a guide for families to bring the parsha to life at home through creative play. Jonathan also serves as executive director of Theater for Young Audiences/USA, the national organization for the professional field of children’s theater. Jonathan lives in New York with his husband and 5-year-old son. Visit https://www.playalongparsha.com/
Photographs with child in pink shirt by Hyphen Photography
Other photographs by Jonathan Shmidt Chapman