What do my students under the age of ten most love to do in drama class? PLAY! Without exception, they love to assume a character, plot a story, examine conflict and use their wild imaginations.
They invent the most improbable, fantastic stories that make perfect sense to them. Maybe the mermaid has a pet squirrel – and maybe the squirrel is sometimes able to live under water and the mermaid is sometimes able to move around on the land; maybe the girl protagonist can talk to the animals, whether it is the dolphin that lives in the ocean near the hut she lives in, or the silverback gorilla (I didn’t know about the silverback – all my students are stunningly knowledgeable about animals and like to be specific in their classification) in the nearby jungle; or maybe there is a fairy nurse who befriends a sick cat and together they go on a journey full of wonderful characters and creatures, maybe even to an alien land …
They are not interested in adapting their plot lines or body language for an audience. That stops the creative flow and anyway the audience should be extraordinarily impressed with their inventiveness and, well, THEM.
This is how it should be. During this play time (structured and challenged by the teacher), they are learning about themselves and their emotions; they are learning conflict resolution and pondering dilemmas; they are extending their imaginations and creativity and verbal skills and they are gaining confidence in themselves. There could not be a better base for those children who want to pursue theatre in later life, because their future theatre skills will then be based on authenticity and a solid sense of knowing who they are; and there could not be time better spent for children generally, because their honesty and selfknowledge will stand them in good stead when they are required to face the challenges that life presents to us all.
So remember – although the results of playtime are not measurable (like solving math problems), play may be the most important activity your child engages in.