Create a Space for Preschool Dramatic Play
The Dramatic play space is always a favorite learning space in the preschool classroom. So much learning happens here. This space provides many opportunities for children to practice life skills, building their imagination, and a key component in role playing.
Children learn about everyday life in the dramatic play space. They learn by exploring the items adults use on a daily basis, and learn about empathy and nurturing while caring for dolls.
Children also learn about the world around them by pretending to be community helpers, and exploring the roles of these important people during dress-Up play.
Below, you will find tips on: selecting furniture, setting up a housekeeping space, choosing props & dress-up items, adding print rich materials to your space, how to create specialty dramatic play areas, and rotating and storing your materials.
Choosing a space:
When creating any learning space, you'll want to assess how much space you have to dedicate to this area, and the best placement.
The dramatic play space is an active area, so you may want to place it in an area away from your reading area, or other designated quiet spaces.
Before you shop:
In this space, you'll want to provide a variety of accessible dramatic play materials for all ages. Make sure your furniture and the storage option you have in this area allows
children to access items independently.
Before you purchase furniture for your space, consider using cardboard boxes, items you have on hand, or up-cycle a piece of furniture!
An entertainment center, a low shelf on its side, or recycled materials can all be used to create to create something new for this space.
One of my favorite pieces for dramatic play is a play stand that can be easily transformed into new specialty dramatic play area. Check out this tutorial on how you can build the stand on a low budget.
When purchasing furniture consider longevity. Select items that can withstand a lot of use. Check the doors to make sure they are easy to open and close. You can find commercial grade furniture at childcare supply stores such as discount school supply, and lakeshore learning.
If you are looking for a smaller play kitchen you may want to consider visiting IKEA, or purchasing one on Amazon. Be sure to check craigslist, and other on-line groups for childcare centers that closing, or selling their furniture.
Pay close attention to the amount of storage space in your play kitchen. Do the pieces you are selecting have enough room to store pots & pans, play food, and plates? It may be necessary to add an extra storage unit to this space to hold all of your materials.
The main component of the dramatic play space is your housekeeping area. The housekeeping area consists of items that children can find around their homes, and provides opportunities to practice activities that happen around the home. The basics of this space are: a play kitchen, a child sized table & chair set, a doll area, and a place for dress up.
Children are learning about self care, empathy, and caring for others in the housekeeping dramatic play space. To enhance your area you should add items that allow children to care for babies.
Some items to add to this space are: A diverse variety of dolls, doll accessories (doll clothes, cribs. strollers, changing areas), and inclusion items such as wheel chairs and walkers. You can also add books about babies, and photos of babies to this space.
Props are a key element of the dramatic play space. Select basic props for this space that can reused for different themes such as: pretend cookware, play food, a cash register, and play sets.
A bakery is a fun place to work and visit!
Many props can be found around your home, at garage sales, dollar stores and thrift stores, or even made for free or very minimal cost. Be sure to hang a list letting your families know your plans-they may have items to donate!
Preschoolers will love making pizzas! These can be made from felt from our PKPF Pizza Parlor
Children love to cook with loose parts, and even create their own materials for this space from paper, felt and recycled materials. Allowing children to create their own props, is a very important part of pretend play.
Allow children to take ownership of their own space, and create some of the props in their space. Don't always "set up" all of the materials, instead you can facilitate the play by asking them what they need, and rotate items in and out in phases.
Provide the labels and let them set it up. PKPF Farmer's Market
Invite your students to decorate their own spaces by giving them a box of decor that they can use to decorate their home space for the holidays, or a give them a box containing re-usable materials, and crayons and allow them to construct their own pretend play items.
A variety of props for pretend play fun these can be found in our PKPF Pet Clinic
Whenever possible try to incorporate "real" items in your space, suchas this child size mop you can make for $1, real cookware, calculators, phones, and keyboards. As always, check your items to make sure they are safe by enough for the youngest mobile child in your care. Don't forget to cutting off cords, and removing loose parts.
The dramatic play area should also allow children the opportunity to pretend to be adults, babies, and experience being people in their community, or animals they are learning about. In addition to adult coats, and dresses, you can also add a variety of costumes and accessories for dress-up play. You can include career, multicultural, and pretend character items as well.
Pretend to be an animal handler. Try out this free PKPF Spider Exhibit
Make sure dress up items are accessible and easy to put away. Most young children are successful with hanging items back up on hooks, or placing them in bins. Be sure to hang a mirror near this space for children to see themselves.
There are a lot of jobs to do at a restaurant. Invite your preschoolers to make a sandwich shop with this printable PKPF Sandwich Shop set.
Halloween is a great time to get your hands on some fun low cost dress up items for your space. Be sure to check with your clients, and friends for any costumes they may have outgrown.
Create a Print Rich Space
You can support literacy development by making sure your space is full of print, such as labels, books, and other props that encourage literacy and writing.
Use recipes to bake and cook-PKPF Pie Stand
Some of my favorite print rich materials include:
Housekeeping Space: Cookbooks, recipe cards, junk mail, magazines, blank shopping lists, and note cards.
Restaurant: Menus, order forms, checks, checkbooks, and signs
Store: Labels, receipts, food boxes, sales ads, and coupons
Other ideas: Maps, tickets, sign in sheets, signs, and brochures
Learn more about sanitation workers in your community-PKPF Recycle Center
Non-fiction books, and posters featuring real photos of people, the homes live in, and images of the jobs they are doing, make a great additions to this space.
Specialty dramatic play
A specialty dramatic play space allows children to take on the roles of people in their community. It also allows them to "visit" places in their community, and try out new experiences.
Some examples of specialty dramatic play ideas include:
Restaurants: Italian restaurant, bakery, pizza parlor, diner, Chinese restaurant, sandwich shop, coffee shop
Stores: grocery store , shoe store , flower shop.
Experiences: camping, airport, a picnic , or a trip to the beach
Community Places: post office, library, school, fire station
Prop Ideas: menu's, tablecloths, checks, salt and pepper shakers, bell, items to set the table with, waitress and waiter dress up clothes.
Dine in or order a pizza to go with this PKPF Pizza Parlor dramatic play resource.
Prop ideas for a store: Play Money, Purses, Wallets, a Cash Register, Paper Bags, pens & Paper for writing lists, Play Food, Shopping Carts or baskets, and a Pretend Scale.
Stock the store shelves and help customers check out.
Try out new jobs, such as a florist! Practice designing bouquets for special occasions.
Create an outdoor experience, inside-even if the weather is bad.
Dramatic play can help ease fears about new experiences, such as a first airplane ride.
Places in the community
Learn more about some of the important people in your city and the jobs they do.
Rotating and Storing Materials
You can either rotate out your existing housekeeping area into a specialty dramatic space, or create one elsewhere in your home as a temporary learning space. The materials you use to create these specialty spaces can be stored in boxes and brought into your space as the children are interested, or as you change out to a new theme.
Store materials in containers that are easy to access. Labeling storage bins makes it easier for young children to put items away. Take a less is more and only add a limited amount of items to the space-and adding more if you find that children need additional materials.
Remember this space doesn't need to be large. Providing the children with a box of dress up clothes, or cooking supplies allows them to use their imagination to create their own pretend play fun.
Allow children to give input about items, and themes they’d like to see in this space. Let your observations guide you. Listening to conversations about your student’s weekend activities may provide you with clues to provide more meaningful learning opportunities. Did they visit the grocery store, or the movies? Expand on their learning.
Finally, always remember to make time to participate in pretend play activities (shadowing the younger children). Have fun and play!
Shop for Dramatic Play Packs in my Store
Check out all of our Preschool Dramatic Play Packs in our shop!
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