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Keep It Fresh: New Dramatic Play Center Themes for Preschoolers

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Childhood is a time where play is crucial; children love to express themselves and exercise their imaginations through dramatic play in the classroom. While children participate in dramatic play they use props to inspire different roles which help them interact with each other. This interaction between children in the dramatic play space can help cultivate important social skills that will follow a child throughout the rest of her life. It is for these reasons that it is imperative educators change the props and other dramatic play materials frequently. Without the frequent changing of props a child’s imagination can become stagnant — they will have used the props in every way they can imagine and become bored.

It can be daunting as an educator to constantly think of props to include in dramatic play centers, but it does not have to be scary. First a space for dramatic play has to be arranged if one does not already exist. Preparing the space can be done before the children arrive and include arranging the physical space, selecting and gathering props, and displaying them in a way that invites children to participate in pretend play. Some props that are extremely versatile in use are blankets, dolls, play money, eyeglasses without lenses, telephones, steering wheels, and simple clothing items. These small props can be used by children in multiple different scenarios and enhance the functionality and appeal of the dramatic play center. The appeal of the dramatic play center can also be ncrease dby using print props. Print props are items such as photographs and signs that make the area more authentic, provide information, help children to make connections between the world outside and inside their classroom, and inspire and extend play. Some print props are: generic store signs (open/closed or exit/enter), poster board and paper to create signs or posters, camera and film, and sticky notes

Props in a dramatic play center all depend on the age of the children playing and the theme of the play. Older children with a more detailed theme may require more props, as not to be underwhelmed, while younger children with simpler themes may require fewer props. However, all props, regardless of the children’s age and theme of the play, should be inclusive of gender and culture. Early childhood settings are very diverse areas, so it is crucial to make all children feel welcome and accepted in a space.

The incorporation of prop boxes into a dramatic play center can help educators change the props frequently and with ease. A prop box is a collection of all the props that fit a particular theme (airplanes, bakeries, and so on). By keeping props of the same theme together, it makes it quite easy to replace one prop box with another. Below are some prop box ideas with some of the props that can be included!


Birthday Party Prop Box:

  • Basic Props:
  • Birthday candles, Birthday crown, camera, candles, cake, party hats
  • Additional Props:
  • Dolls, Dress-up clothes, cake-making materials, empty boxes (gifts), wrapping paper and tape.
  • Extension activities:
  • Mark each child’s birthday on the calendar.
  • Wrap familiar objects in wrapping paper. Ask children to guess what’s inside.
  • Have children make and decorate party hats.


Library Prop Box:

  • Basic Props:
  • Books, calendar, date stamp and ink pad, index cards, library cards, magazines, name tags
  • Additional Props:
  • Book display rack, computer keyboard or typewriter, eyeglasses without lenses, telephone, index card file box
  • Extension Activities:
  • Make bookmarks.
  • Sort books from the classroom library into genres. Arrange books alphabetically by author.
  • Visit both the school and local library.

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