This Is What You Need To Know About Dramatic Play
What kind of person did you pretend to be when you were a kid? An Olympic athlete, a veterinarian… a rockstar?
Children Learn Through Dramatic Play
I LOVED to pretend when I was little. What I didn’t realize at the time was that in addition to pretending….I was also learning.
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What Is Dramatic Play
Dramatic play is often called pretend play or imaginative play. In dramatic play, kids act out different roles.
The roles can be real-life scenarios, like when my son would don a tie and pretend that he was going to the office like his Dad. The roles can also be fantasy, like when the kids pretend that the play structure on the playground is a pirate ship.
Benefits of Imaginative Play
When many people see kids engaging in dramatic play, they think that the kids are just playing. In fact, a lot of learning is actually going. Learning through play is engaging, meaningful, and essential to young kids.
Below you will find just some examples of the learning that goes on during dramatic play.
Kids learn how to work cooperatively to solve problems. Kids can learn empathy as they put themselves in other’s shoes.
Kids learn new vocabulary and learn how to communicate their wants, needs, and even their desire for a breakfast taco.
Children experiment with a wide variety of texts like grocery lists, maps, and taco menus, pre-flight checklists. They learn that reading and writing are part of everyday life and that different tasks require different texts.
Sometimes kids act out a story from a familiar book. This actually increases their reading comprehension.
Fine Motor Skills
Writing practice often takes place when kids pretend. They might make a grocery list, make a sign for a restaurant, address an envelope, etc.
Kids can also work on fine motor skills as they fill prescriptions, feed animals, or fill egg cartons.
How to Set up a Dramatic Play Area
Your dramatic play area can be as big or small as you like and you can set the area up on any budget. The basics for a kitchen or home dramatic play center include a table and chairs, a sink, a stove, and a refrigerator.
Additional pieces of furniture can serve different functions to help you transform your center for a new theme.
A puppet theatre can be used as a reception desk in a doctor’s office, but as a check-out lane in a grocery store. A table can serve as a restaurant table, kitchen table, or vet’s exam table in an animal shelter. Shelves can be switched out with different props for each theme.
If your budget is tight or if you are super creative, you can create furniture for your dramatic play area from cardboard boxes, old furniture, and maybe some duct tape.
Here is some furniture that will work well for a classroom dramatic play space.
Props for the Dramatic Play set up
In the dramatic play center, the props are like the icing on the cake.
Props can really engage the kids and help them get into their pretend roles, so be sure to give some thoughts on which props to add. You can use a combination of props made for pretend play, real-life objects, and creative substitutes.
Have fun gathering and making props.
Find keys, non-working cell phones, and laptops, baby dolls of different races, magazines, grocery carts…the ideas are endless. I love visiting thrift shops and garage sales to find props at bargain prices. You will also find ideas for different themes as you scroll down through the article.
You can also find many props available in stores. Here are some good ones.
When you are adding props, don’t forget about adding dress-up clothes.
Again, visit thrift stores and garage sales, watch for sales on Halloween costumes, and get hand-me-downs for friends and families.
Something magical happens when kids dress up in costumes and you don’t want your kids to miss out on that magic.
Here are some good options for dress-up clothes:
A Print-Rich Dramatic Play Center
Dramatic play teaches kids that there are many different types of text. There are many ways to easily add text throughout your dramatic play center.
Label everything that you can. Labels provide kids with opportunities to look at words, look at the sounds in words, and expand their vocabulary.
Do you need some ideas for adding print to your dramatic play set-up? Here are some text ideas that you can add for popular themed play areas.
- Restaurants – menus, signs for daily specials, order forms, checks
- Doctor’s Office – sign-in sheets, signs for exam rooms and waiting areas, exam checklists
- Police Station -maps, parking tickets,……
- Post Office – price signs, maps, postcards, stamps, mailing labels, envelopes, stationary
- Home – grocery list, to do list, books, magazines, computers, electronic devices
- Airport – maps, flight schedules, computers, magazines, boarding passes
- Grocery Store – ads, coupons, price tags, shopping lists
You can also add fiction or non-fiction books to your center.
Pretend Theme Ideas
Want to create some excitement in your classroom? Try switching things out. Here are a bunch of thematic ideas to help you transform your dramatic play center
Find tips & ideas to set up a fun grocery store dramatic play area. Get directions for food, props, printables, literacy & math elements for play-based learning through pretend play.
Create a doctor dramatic play area for your preschoolers. Kids can learn science, literacy, and math concepts in a fun way as they play and pretend.
Your kids will have fun learning about the weather when you set up a weather station dramatic play area. Encourage pretend play, math, science, and literacy learning with these ideas and printables.
This DIY jet pack will be perfect for your space-themed dramatic play area. Learn how to easily make a jet pack with a few inexpensive supplies.
Find lots of ideas to help you create a space dramatic play area. Your kids will have so much fun as they learn about space and pretend to be astronauts.
Create a geology lab dramatic play center. Combine science, math, and literacy in a developmentally appropriate manner with these fun ideas for your preschool or pre-k classroom.
Find ideas to create an entomology lab dramatic play area set up. Your kids will love playing and learning in this insect research lab.
Delight your kids by transforming your dramatic play area. Use the ideas for props, dress up clothes, literacy opportunities, and a free printable tag to create an animal shelter in your classroom.
Use these ideas and hacks to transform your dramatic play center into a taco restaurant or taco truck that your kids will love.
Dramatic Play Printables
Pick up these dramatic play printables from my store. Click on the images below to check them out and purchase them today.