Dramatic play is a staple of the early childhood classroom and purposeful play. Dramatic play can easily be done at home, as well, with these four simple tips! For other tips on setting up play areas, check out this blog post!
1. Start Simple
Children do not need much to let their imaginations run wild. Have any leftover big boxes from a recent purchase? Any unused paper bags you can cut open? Use these as the backgrounds for the dramatic play area! Children can draw on them with the background they want. The box can become a castle or a plane or a school room. Children can use blank paper to create props to add to their play. My students loved making nametags, tickets, and monsters with the blank paper. Their creativity never ceases to amaze me.
2. Use Dramatic Play Materials from around the House
Dramatic play is most engaging when there are real materials included. I like to include old phones that I no longer need, those fake credit cards that they send you in the mail, old wallets and purses. Let your child borrow kitchen materials for their play. Whenever I am setting up a new dramatic play area, I try and ask local businesses for any materials that I can use with my students. For example, I used packing slips and envelopes from the post office for my post office dramatic play area.
3. Let the Child Lead
Dramatic play is best when your child is leading the way. Ask them what the setting is they want for their play and what materials they might need. If they choose a castle, maybe find a book online or in your local library about castles. Children are much more engaged in the play when they help to set it up. Bonus – it’s also less work for you! Simply provide the open ended materials, ask them what other materials they might want, and help them research and brainstorm what items they might want for their play. When it’s time to play, let them assign the roles and scenarios. Join them in play and their pretend world and encourage the storytelling that will follow.
4. Encourage Math and Literacy in Dramatic Play
In addition to storytelling and acting out different scenarios, you can encourage your child to include math and literacy in their play. Money, time, and counting are easy ways to include math your child’s play. You can ask questions, like, “How much would that cost?” “How many do I need?” or “What time does it start?” You can also provide play money or clocks. For literacy, simply including blank paper or notebooks may be enough to encourage authentic writing. I also like to include printouts for writing, like order forms, doctor notes, travel tickets, etc. to encourage writing in their play. You can also include books in the dramatic play area about the topic of their play to deepen their play and to encourage learning from reading.
Setting up dramatic play at home is simple and easy with these four tricks! Let your child take the lead, give them a mix of open-ended and real-life materials.