I still love socio-dramatic play! I love the way it brings children of different ages and abilities together in a common experience. I love the way children incorporate reading and writing on their own as they take on roles and interactions. I love the way children use higher levels of vocabulary and sentence structure as they make believe. I love the way children are empowered to initiate play and draw on their own prior experiences when they are pretending to be a restaurant worker or mail carrier. I love watching children have fun!
Dramatic play is one of the things I have missed most about teaching Kindergarten. The most meaningful kind of dramatic play is when children initiate it by themselves. It often naturally flows out of constructive play or dressing dolls, etc. They might be using blocks and turn it into a castle, then pretend to be a princess or a King, etc. Or dressing up their baby doll, then ‘taking it to the grocery store.’ This kind of play is so rich and meaningful, but it takes time, and sometimes encouragement for this play to develop. At school I found that if I set up the structure of a dramatic play experience the children were always anxious to have a turn and jumped into the dramatic play. I know that my grandchildren take on roles and use dolls and puppets in their play all the time, but I wanted to find an easy way to set up some fun dramatic play experiences at my house.
I had this small media cart that used to hold a TV and VCR, wasting away in my basement. So I bribed my in-house handyman to lower the shelf and add a board to the back and a part over the top – like this:
A coat of paint and a curtain, and I was ready to set up a restaurant!
This really is small, 22 x 15 inches but just the right size for my grandchildren to have fun. I asked them what we should turn it into first, and they chose a restaurant. So I made some menus, they gathered some play food and added some paper placemats. If I hadn’t been so anxious I would have encouraged them to make the menus themselves! We had a play cash register that we set on top of the shelf. I ordered a set of very inexpensive aprons online, and used Sharpie markers to turn them into restaurant uniforms. I found a very cheap rectangular chalkboard at Michaels that fits into a groove on the top – so the children can change the name of the play center.
After a few weeks of playing restaurant they wanted to change the play center into a Fire Station. So they helped make some flames from colored foam sheets, dug out their fire fighter hats and Mr. Handyman cut off a few pieces of old hose. We brought out Benchly – a relic from my Kindergarten days – just a bench with a steering wheel attached to the front, makes a great fire truck but can also be used as a school bus, airplane, tractor, van, etc. Benchly is long enough for 3 or 4 children but here Owen and Max were on their way to fight a fire!
Nora had the hose and did a great job making squirting noises!
Back at the station, Owen was ready for another call.
Great job Fire Fighters!
I added a wipe off board to the front of the play center. They love to write on that too!
So I’m having a wonderful time playing with my grandchildren – hope you’re having a really happy new year too!