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Encouraging Outdoor Role Play

How to Encourage Outdoor Role Play for EYFS pupils 

Play can be defined as “freely chosen, personally directed, intrinsically motivate behaviour that actively engages the child” National Playing Fields Association (NPFA). 

children stand inside the playhouse and pretend to work in a flower shop

Play is a fun way for children to learn about themselves, other people, and the environment around them; whilst at the same time developing important skills that help their cognitive and physical development through Role-Play.  

Throughout the world proclaimed early educators have seen the value that Play provides children over hundreds of years, from Froebel (1826), Montessori (1916) to Piaget (1945), and holds a revered position by many early years educators and philosophers such as Cannella (2002) and Gadamer (2003).   

two children dress up and play a role play game in the den-making posts

EYFS Role-Play plays a critical part in a children’s creative development as stated in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). By allowing purposeful play, children are encouraged to develop their emotional awareness and manage events and emotions in a safe setting. Children’s Role-Play also highlights that everyone has their own take on events and situations and that everyone is unique from having different personalities, and family heritage, to where they live. EFYS Role-Play encourages children to develop their linguistic skills, manage their emotions, promotes creativity, and boosts social and cognitive skills. 

Why is Children's Role Play Important? 

For children, Role-Play is a natural thing to do, and you will often see them playing individually or in groups and “pretending” to be in a different environment such as a doctor’s surgery, knights and princesses, or an event that happened to the children at home. By Roleplaying in different situations, children can develop critical skills needed such as: 

  • Creativity 
  • Communication 
  • Social  
  • Emotional  
  • Problem-solving  
  • Working in groups 

Role-Play encourages children to explore new and old ideas about the environment around them in a safe space.  

three children sit inside the essentials playhouse acting out 3 little pigs

Outdoor Role Play Ideas for EYFS Environments

When setting up an outdoor Role-Play area you must remember to set the children up for success!  

For EYFS Role-Play to run smoothly and for the children to gain as much as possible from their time Roleplaying, the Role-Play area and children need to have: 

Knowledge of key vocabulary that is needed.  

Before letting the children go off and Role-Play, discuss what words and terminology you might use in certain scenarios. This enhances children’s confidence when Roleplaying and will ultimately make it more fun for the children. 

children dress up as builders and construction workers and play on play builder

Real objects and props to bring the Role-Play to life. 

Using real objects and props will bring Role-Play to life for the children. For example, having a till for a café or shop with coins, notes, and bank cards or even a telephone for a Vets surgery helps the children get into the role and become that character! If props aren’t available why not get the children to make them?!  

An understanding of the scenario and script 

A great way to introduce the Role-Play topic and enable the children to understand the scenario in more depth before going to do it. For example, tell the children that the Role-Play will take place at a train station. Then encourage ask them to explain the different things that they need to do to get on a train… go to the ticket office, buy a ticket (one way or a round trip, economy or business class!), walk to the correct platform (explain what one is), read the train timetable, buy a drink or sandwich, get on the train, where will they sit (on the aisle or by the window?), what will they do on the train? is there a ticket master? who’s going to drive the train? is there food on the train? 

children stand within the timber pirate ship and pretend to be pirates

An environment to allow imagination and fun to flow! 

An important factor for every Role-Play area is that it must promote imagination and fun! Role-Play areas are there for children to let their creative juices flow in a safe and open environment. Whilst at the same time allowing them to create imaginative, humorous, silly, or serious scenarios where they can work individually and in groups to set a particular scene or character.  

children pretend to be bakers and chefs on the essentials mud kitchen

To see more of the products pictured in this blog, explore Pentagon Play's Imaginative and Creative Range.

Benefits of Role Play in Early Years |  Twinkl 


Cannella, G. S. 2002. Deconstructing Early Childhood Education. New York: Peter Lang. 

Froebel, F. 1826. trans. 1912. Froebel’s Chief Writings on Education (Rendered into English). Translated by S. S. F. Fletcher, and J. Welton. London: Edward Arnold. [Google Scholar] 

Montessori, M. 1916. The Montessoria Method. New York: Schocken Books. [Google Scholar] 

National Playing Fields Association, Children’s Play Council and Playlink. 2000. Best Play. What Play Provision Should do for Children. London: National Playing Fields Association. [Google Scholar] 

Piaget, J. 1945. Play, Dreams, and Imitation in Childhood. New York: Norton. [Google Scholar] 

Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage (