How to Set Up a Dramatic Play Center at School or at Home

How to Set up a Dramatic Play Center at School or at Home | Gryphon House

When many parents and teachers think of classroom activities for toddlers they focus only on math, science, and literacy. However, dramatic play is crucial to young children’s development. Social games for toddlers not only help social-emotional development, but they also lay the foundation for skills in all learning areas.

Children are already equipped with one vital tool for dramatic play: their imagination. Prop Box Play: 50 Themes to Inspire Dramatic Play, calls attention to the fact that while dramatic play may seem simple, to young children it is actually a very complex and challenging process. It is because “play is comprised of a variety of engrossing activities that it is such a rich medium for children’s learning and development.” Play is an extremely important part of childhood. While playing, children learn and implement new skills and understandings. Providing an important context for social interactions, play supports children across a wide range of skills and competencies in “the areas of social, emotional, cognitive, language, and physical development.”

Setting up a dramatic play center in your classroom or home is easier than it seems. Prop Box Play provides parents and educators with guidance and dramatic play ideas sure to inspire imagination and creativity within your preschoolers.

Here are a few tips for setting up a dramatic play center in your home or classroom.

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Creating Dramatic Play Centers

  • Materials for dramatic play are many and varied. There are no requirements for must-have equipment or materials. Some materials are versatile enough to accommodate different themes and can be used in a variety of ways.
  • Some play equipment can be compared to the pots and pans in a kitchen, which are used daily. In dramatic play, these would be items such as tables and chairs or shelving. In a kitchen, you also find staples such as spices that can be used in a variety of ways, depending on the recipe. It is the same with common props in dramatic play, such as mirrors or baskets. These can be used in a number of ways, depending on the theme, to enhance the appeal of a dramatic play center.

Large Equipment

Large pieces of equipment define the dramatic play space, support small props, and can be modified to become different thematic props.

Versatile pieces of large equipment include:

  • Peg boards with hooks for hanging hats, clothing, and other props
  • Low shelves to act as dividers and provide access to props
  • An indoor climbing structure that can be covered and converted into a number of structures (space ship, castle, drive-through restaurant window)
  • Table and chairs
  • Easel(s) to display signs
  • Large blocks for children to use to create their own spaces and “furniture”
  • A full-length mirror

Small Versatile Props

Versatile props enhance the functionality and appeal of a dramatic play center. The following items support a variety of themes and are good additions to a number of prop boxes:

  • Blankets
  • Computer keyboard
  • Cash register or money box
  • Dolls
  • Play money, checkbook, credit cards
  • Purses and wallets
  • Eyeglasses without lenses
  • Clipboard with paper
  • Telephone
  • Clothing items that children can manage independently and are not oversized

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