Lined writing paperSocial Play Action Figures

Target: age pre-K to K-2

Goal: Use characters customized for each child to teach listening, taking turns, staying on subject, and empathy.

How to Make:

  1. Photograph and cut out each child’s face.
  2. Give each child an action figure to color and paste face onto
  3. Write each child’s name on figure and post in room

How to Use:

  • Lined writing paperLearn about the other students in class:
    Let each child take home everyone’s figures for one evening to play with and learn the faces and names. If you feel there might be a problem with children not returning all the figures, you can have each child take only his or her figure home and role play with imaginary figures created in class using faces from cartoons, clip art, or downloaded from the web. These characters used at home can help generalize the skills to new people outside the classroom.

  • Role play in pairs for learning turn taking, listening, and staying on topic:
    Put children in pairs and set a timer at the front of the room. Let each child use their action figure to explain to their partner’s actions figure what they did that morning before school. Set timer to 5 minutes and when time is up, the person listening has to ask one question about the other’s morning and the first person can answer for a minute. Then switch turns.

  • Role play in pairs to learn about empathy:
    After a pair has role played for turn taking, have the two children exchange figures. Each person will pretend to be their partner's action figure and will describe what they think will happen getting ready for school tomorrow or after school today. Use the timer again to limit each person’s time and let the two kids discuss how they felt about the other person’s description of their life. You may want to allow a few minutes for each person to play the part, time for discussion after each person has taken their turn, and time at the end for answering questions like:

    • Did you feel like you were in the other person’s house (or class, or whatever is related to the scenario you set) when you were playing with their figure?
    • What did it feel like to be the other person?
    • Do you have any questions about their home, or whatever is related to the scenario they played?

Use the timer to allow each person to only talk a set time before the other person can talk.
If the children are having trouble free talking or listening to each other, ask them to draw a picture of the scene they played and show it to the other person and ask the person to tell them what is different in the picture from their real house, and then redraw the picture with the partner’s changes shown.

  • Role play in class group
    Pick one action figure and one child from the class. It maybe the child's figure or someone else's figure if you are encouraging empathy or imaginative play. Have the child stand in front of the class and answer one question while pretending to be the selected figure. Example questions are “What is your action figure’s favorite color/song/thing to do on the weekend/etc?” Let the class discuss or ask a question based on the presentation. You may choose to let the child whose picture it is, if not his, take the figure and answer the same question. The group can discuss the difference between what the person imagined and what the real person felt. Do a different person each day.

Download Action Figure Templates (PDF Format):

Gingerbread Man Person Teddy Bear robot

  1. Match children for pairs or let them pick their partner. Switch every day until all children have paired with each other.
  2. Use shapes other than human, such as robots or animals. Let children make their own figures or provide a selection.
  3. For studier figures, make a cardboard template of the shape and let your students trace the figure onto colored card stock before coloring and cutting.
  4. Color both sides for more complex social play.

Note: Boys may refuse to play with ‘dolls’ so use the term ‘action figures’.