Playing, Pretending, & Puppetry By Michael Vetere

Michael Vetere, is an Associate Professor at Illinois State University in the School of Theatre and Dance.  His focus area includes creative dramatics, puppetry, and the arts for early childhood and elementary education.


My nephew loves to play pretend!  He puts his blanket around his shoulders and he is immediately transformed into a superhero that must put out fires to protect his sister!  I admire his focus and commitment to recreating an imaginary world where he becomes the central character in a dramatic situation.

Children naturally engage in dramatic play to recreate and process the world around them.  In theatre that is what we do too!  You see, actors are pretending to be someone else and they create an imaginary world to play in – they are professional players!

We, as teachers of young children, have an incredible opportunity to foster children’s natural ability to play through the art of theatre or more appropriate, creative dramatics.

A few very simple creative drama techniques can help a child develop critical thinking skills, empathy, and even elements of the core curriculum.

Next time you are working with young children – try one of these creative dramatics techniques:

A Costume

It doesn’t have to be a fully clothed costume just a hat or a scarf could work.  Pretend you are a character from a story book like “Pirate Pete” or “Fancy Nancy” with an eye patch or a glitter scarf.  Ask the children questions about the book or let them ask you questions as a teacher in role (TiR).


What if?

A “what if” statement is very simple and an effective way to engage children in creative writing or art.  Ask children questions starting with the words, “What if…” then complete the statement with a question.  For example, “What if it really did rain meatballs?” or “What if you were to live under the ocean?”


Let’s Look!

Analyze pictures in a book and see if the students can find the dramatic tension.  What are the characters feeling? Where are they? How do you know?  Have you ever felt like him/her? When? What happened?


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