By Stefanie Camoni
Preschool children love to pretend. They pretend to be police officers, fast food workers, moms, dads, even puppies and anyone or anything they have encountered, watched on TV, or read about in a book. Therefore, it is important to fill the dramatic play center with props and materials that allow children to be whoever they want to be.
The authors of the ECERS-R included an item that focuses specifically on dramatic play. Within the item, there are examples of props and themes to assist teachers in creating an appropriate space for children. Here are some guidelines to consider when creating or recreating your dramatic play space:
- Give them room. Children play big and need space to let their imagination run wild. By organizing dramatic play materials in a large space, children can easily access and use the materials. Labeling bins and shelves with words and pictures will help children return items during clean up time.
- Include a variety of dress-up clothes. This can include costumes and work-related uniforms but should always include some gender specific examples. According to the ECERS-R, “Since children are developing gender-role identity during the preschool years they require concrete examples of dress-ups associated with being men or women.” Today we see people wearing clothing representative of both genders. Children should have the opportunity to explore both gender items such as heels, suit coats, vests, skirts, and hats.
- Include props and materials that are related to a current theme or a topic the children are interested in. Many people find it helpful to create prop boxes. These boxes include materials organized around a specific theme or topic such as the beach, post office, or flower shop.
Dramatic play themes should be rotated and changed, so having enough materials is key. Since we know our budgets wouldn’t allow for big spending, let’s look at some budget friendly ways to expand our dramatic play:
- Wish lists for families. As we are spring cleaning or reorganizing our homes, so are our families. Be sure to ask them to help by donating items they no longer want or need.
- Garage sales and flea markets can not only be fun but cost effective.
- Thrift stores are always a great stop for inexpensive dress-up clothes and other props that may be needed.
- Local stores and shops are sometimes willing to donate items to our classrooms. Check out your post office, grocery store, flower shop, hair salon; anyplace that may be tossing their gently used items or have an overabundance of supplies they would be willing to share with you.
Now it’s time to go out and create or re-create your space. Check out some links below to assist in your planning and gathering, and feel free to post comments on your finds and favorite materials to include in your dramatic play space. You can also send pictures to us that may be used in future posts. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If selected, we will contact you to complete a photo waiver form.