Dramatic play is different than many other types of imaginative games. Instead of dealing with dolls and cars and trucks; your child is taking an active position in pretending to be another person entirely. Whether playing teacher, doctor, or explorer, dramatic play is an important part of a children's development for many reasons.
First, kids use this type of play to learn about the world around them. The way your child's "character" is portrayed or how he interacts with those around him can give you an inside peak into your child's mind. For instance, if your son pretending to be a "daddy"; the way he interacts with his "wife" and "children" will show you how he perceives his own father (or lack thereof). If the behavior you see leaves you questioning a situation or event in real life, you know its time to take action.
On the flip side, you can use dramatic play to get your own messages across. Do this much in the same way, only instead of watching your child's behavior from afar get involved in the game yourself. This will allow you to alter the scenario and reactions to display healthy resolutions to problems.
That said, often times dramatic play accomplishes nothing but a good time for your child in which he can live and explore. You can encourage this by providing him with plenty of toys that make dramatic play more fun and exciting.
One of our favorites is the Melissa and Doug Pirate Chest. Your son or daughter will spend hours on the open seas looking for buried treasure! Make it seem even more real by hiding the "gold" around your home and offer a special surprise to anyone who finds it! This type of dramatic play is not only entertaining, but allows kids to develop mental skills like memory and problem solving.
Other toys include the pretend play food, where kids can learn healthy habits early. Encourage them to create toy meals then serve a healthy lunch to mom and dad. This is a great way to show children that eating right is cool! Instilling these habits early will set your kids up for healthier habits as they grow.
Whatever toys you choose, allow your child to freely express any thoughts or feelings he brings up during dramatic playtime. Use this time to teach him healthy ways of expressing himself, dealing with emotions and interacting with others.