What is dramatic play for preschoolers? It’s way less intimidating than it sounds at first.
Children naturally engage in dramatic play whenever they pretend to be or do something they’re not. It’s a type of play where children assign and accept a role, then act it out; pretending to be someone or something else. If you’ve ever witnessed a preschooler pretending to be a doctor, a cat, or a super hero, you’ve seen dramatic play for preschoolers at work.
Keep reading for some great ideas for dramatic play and dramatic play centers at school, at home, and even outdoors. Plus, discover all the cool things your preschoolers can learn from dramatic play. You won’t want to miss these cute ideas for encouraging learning through play with your preschool learners!
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What Can Preschoolers Learn From Dramatic Play?
Dramatic play is an important part of healthy childhood development. It’s a safe way for preschoolers to test out many different scenarios and situations through pretend play. Kids can explore different roles and their own creativity through dramatic play.
Dramatic play is a fantastic way to encourage learning through play with your preschoolers too. Check out some of the awesome skills your preschoolers can learn from dramatic play:
- Social Skills like perception, empathy, and understanding
- Language and Communication Skills
- Ingenuity and creativity
- Learning to separate real life from fantasy
Plus, it’s a fun way for your preschoolers to learn more about whatever you’re studying at the moment. Learning to add and subtract? Set up a grocery store dramatic play area and have preschoolers take turns being the cashier. Preparing for a rather challenging haircut? Turn your dramatic play area into a hair salon to help your preschooler learn to feel more comfortable in the setting. There are so many fun ideas for dramatic play learning you can use in preschool!
How to Set Up a Preschool Dramatic Play Area
If you’re wondering what should be included in your preschool dramatic play area, keep reading for some great tips and tricks on setting up a successful dramatic play center in your classroom or at home.
Think About Size and Location
First, you’ll want to consider that a dramatic play area does require some space and flexibility. Preschoolers can become attached to these centers and it might be difficult or counter productive to place your dramatic play center in a location where it will need to be disassembled often.
Find a spot that’s inviting, has space for flexibility, and won’t be in the way of other home or classroom traffic. Depending on the size of your space, you may have to limit the number of children that are allowed to use the preschool dramatic play area at one time.
Choose a Theme
This is probably the most fun part of setting up a preschool dramatic play area. Depending on the size of your space, you may be able to incorporate more than one theme at a time. If your dramatic play center is small, you’ll need to choose just one theme or idea for dramatic play at a time.
In a small space, try to choose a theme that will be exciting for all your preschool learners. For example, a play kitchen has lots of versatility and is exciting for both boys and girls to explore and play in.
Choose Dramatic Play Props & Materials
The materials and props you choose for your dramatic play center have a big impact on how children engage with the space. I like to choose items that help enhance early learning skills we are practicing in our preschool classroom such as writing materials and play money. Here are a few of my favorite ideas:
Dramatic Play Center Ideas
I’ve pulled together our favorite dramatic play center ideas for you to use in your classroom or at home with preschoolers. These fun ideas will help your preschoolers master all kinds of important early learning concepts through play this year.
You won’t want to miss the printable resource bundles included in these ideas for dramatic play centers! They’re filled with props you can download and print to help bring your center to life for your preschoolers. Plus, there are lots of opportunities for preschoolers to build early math, literacy, and fine motor skills while playing too.
This is one of my favorite dramatic play center ideas! Who doesn’t love tacos? This taco stand dramatic play center will help your preschoolers explore lots of important early learning concepts through dramatic play. Plus, it’s easy to set up in a small space and you can use this dramatic play idea at home with your early learners too.
Included in my bundle are 40 pages of printables with all kinds of fun taco props for your preschoolers. You’ll find a taco stand banner, labels for food, an adorable taco stand menu, how to make a taco sequencing worksheet, play money for purchasing pretend tacos, and so much more!
We loved using this taco set throughout the month of May as we celebrated Cinco De Mayo in a fun Taco Stand dramatic play center. You can always use old food cans and boxes for ingredients, as well as construction paper, string, felt, or tissue paper.
This is the perfect dramatic play idea for Fall. If you’re not able to make it to the pumpkin patch this year, you can simply set one up in your classroom! It’s a great way to explore the pumpkin patch with your preschoolers without the field trip.
You can also use this pumpkin patch dramatic play bundle to extend the learning after trip to the pumpkin patch. I’ve included tons of printables in this pumpkin patch dramatic play idea to help you bring the experience to life in the classroom or at home.
When you download my pumpkin patch printables, you’ll find a cutting and pasting “how to carve a pumpkin” activity page, a “bobbing for apples” letter activity, a decorating pumpkins activity, a pumpkin patch banner for your dramatic play center, pumpkin patch order forms, and so much more.
It’s the perfect addition to your pumpkin preschool theme!
I love this ice cream shop dramatic play center because it’s great for outdoor dramatic play too. You can set up your preschool ice cream shop wherever you like! There’s something magical and exciting about selling ice cream for preschoolers.
Another reason I love this dramatic play center idea so much is the ability to get creative. Your preschoolers can get really creative while searching for props to use as “ice cream.” In our ice cream shop dramatic play center, we used colorful tissue paper in balls for pretend ice cream. What will your preschoolers think of?
In my printable ice cream shop dramatic play center bundle, preschoolers will get all kinds of helpful printables to use in creating the perfect ice cream shop. I’ve included an open and closed sign, milkshake making instructions, punch cards, a menu, an ice cream shop banner, and so many more fun printables to use with your early learners this year.
Outdoor Dramatic Play Centers
Most dramatic play ideas translate well to outdoor dramatic play centers too. It’s easy to move your pumpkin patch, taco stand, or ice cream shop to an outdoor location for even more learning fun while soaking up some vitamin D. If you’re looking for some exciting outdoor dramatic play center ideas, try some of these favorites:
The play kitchen is one of the most versatile dramatic play centers I can think of. If you can only choose one dramatic play center theme, make it the kitchen. I have yet to meet a preschooler who didn’t love playing in the kitchen set up. Plus, it’s easy to turn your kitchen in to all kinds of things or even take it outside!
Setting up a mud kitchen in your outdoor space is a fun dramatic play center that incorporates all the great things about role playing in the kitchen with interesting activities like exploring found items from nature and making “mud” too. Check out this Mud Kitchen from TP Toys to get you started.
Another big favorite in our preschool is camping. You can explore all kinds of important history and science lessons with your preschoolers while learning important survival skills during a camping dramatic play session. Set up a small tent, build a pretend “fire,” bring out the sleeping bags and marshmallows. Have fun telling stories and singing campfire songs together with your preschoolers for even more learning fun. Check out this imaginative play camping kit from for more fun ideas to incorporate in your dramatic play center.
Dramatic Play at Home
Many of the same dramatic play centers used in the preschool classroom translate well to a home setting. If you’re looking for help incorporating dramatic play at home, try a few of these tips:
- Use what you have
- Follow your child’s interests
The theme you choose, the space available, and your classroom budget are determining factors in how your preschool dramatic play center will look. Whatever your dramatic play area looks like in the end, incorporating this important opportunity for exploration and learning through play will enrich your preschoolers learning experience in ways you can only imagine.
Share your own preschool dramatic play center ideas in the comments. I can’t wait to read them and create some new dramatic play printable bundles for all kinds of preschool learning fun this year!