Learning Centers: Dramatic-Play Area

It's "nesting time." Involve children in creating their own space in the dramatic-play area to share with special friends.

  • Grades: Early Childhood, PreK–K, 1–2

What Do Special Friends Need?

Here are props you can offer children to help expand their play.

boxes of all sizes

unbreakable mirrors

books, newspapers, and magazines

aluminum foil and unbreakable flashlights

paper and pencil, pads; shopping circulars and lists

cooking utensils and cookbooks

fabric swaths and pieces

medical supplies

art materials and frames

culturally diverse clothing, hats, photos, and art

Developmental note: Offering props one at a time will give children time to expand on the possibilities of each.

Setting Up

1. Arrange your dramatic-play area minimally so children have a cleared area to work in. Then help the group decide what they want the area to be and to look like. A home? A dill nursery? A sure?

2. After children have decided, you might ask: "What do we need to make this space really comfortable? Where should we put our special friends?" Record any questions and encourage children to illustrate their ideas on chart paper.

3. After a group discussion and consensus, help children unpack props and arrange the furniture, in their own way. Leave the area as is and open for play.

4. At some point, bring children back together and go over their first questions and ideas about creating their dramatic-play area. What would they like to do now? Are there any alterations they'd like to make? Any props they would like to add? The group might choose to write a letter to family members asking them to contribute needed props or decide they'd like to arrange the area for a tea party with their special friends.

Remember: With the focus on dolls and puppets, you can't predict the directions in which your group will go when creating the dramatic-play area. But you can be prepared with open-ended questions and a variety of open-ended materials that will assist and inspire play and investigation.

AROUND YOUR ROOM

Adding new elements to various centers and asking open-ended questions invite children to expand their experiences and knowledge base. Its fun, too! Here are some suggestions.

Listening Center

  • Provide recordings of favorite lullabies for babies and fingerplays to use with dolls.
  • Record narrations of favorite puppet shows children can use with puppets.

Block Area

  • Encourage children to create block houses for special friends by offering a variety of props in this area and different measuring devices so children can determine how much space their friends need.
  • Provide photos of different building styles for inspiration. Good book: Buildings by Betsey Chessen and Pamela Chanko (Scholastic, 1998).

Outdoor-Play Area

  • Invite children to invent different ways to move their special friends from one end of the play yard to the other.
  • These ideas are just a beginning. Children will take the lead, especially if they know you are open to the creativity of their ways. If so, you will all learn from shared experience.

  • Subjects:
    Early Learning, Block Play, Curriculum Development, Classroom Management, Arts and Creativity, Early Social Skills, Professional Development, Motor Skills, Songs and Rhymes, Drama, Theater, Musicals, Teacher Tips and Strategies
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