Friday, January 23, 2015

Learning in the Dramatic Play Center

Dramatic Play is absolutely one of our favorite centers at Play to Learn Preschool.  Unfortunately, many parents and educators do not see the value in letting children play.  I recently read an article describing the differences between direct instruction and play-based learning with young children.  The benefits of play were clear, and yet there are so many preschool and kindergarten classrooms that "don't have time" to play.  

We see the incredible benefits of play every day, especially in the dramatic play (or role play) center.  I hope that by describing some of learning that takes place that more teachers and parents will be pleased to hear that their children "just" played at school.

We add these name tags to each dramatic play center.  It really helps the children take on a role, and it is a tremendous vocabulary booster.  When we are playing Airport, the 3-year-olds say things like, "I have to call the Travel Agent" and "This time I am going to be a Passenger."  At the Grocery Store, the children become Clerks who stock the shelves or Cashiers who ring up the totals.  When we worked on our Dinosaur Dig, words like Paleontologist, Photographer and Museum Specialist were being used with ease.  These are all words that they have learned from dramatic play.

Labels are the key to organization in dramatic play!  When we add new elements (utensils for the Cookie Shop or Medical Supplies in the Hospital) we label where they belong so that the students can find them and return them to their correct spot.  Elementary teachers know that keeping things organized (supplies, mittens, desks!) is a constant struggle.  Children who practice in preschool and kindergarten are much more likely to be successful later on.

Each one of our dramatic play centers incorporates reading and writing.  At the Restaurant, customers read the menus and the waiters write down their orders.  At the Airport, students write their name and seat number on official Play Air tickets. When they are taking care of the babies in our newborn Nursery, they write Daily Reports just like the ones that their preschool teachers write for them.  They love that!

Dramatic play also offers lots of opportunities for children to use math in their everyday lives.  We put prices on our baked goods at the Cookie Shop, and the children stop at the bank to get money before they shop.  At the Grocery Store, they weigh the produce on small scales.  At the Hospital they weigh themselves on big scales!  There are tape measures at the Dig Site so that our little paleontologists can measure the length of their fossil discoveries.  The table at the Restaurant and the seats on the Airplane are all labeled for number recognition practice.

Sometimes I think that teachers are afraid to stand up for what they know to be best practices.  We get caught up in thinking that more rigorous academics early on will lead to success in school.  We forget that young children have incredible brains that have the remarkable ability to learn through play.  When asked if children play in preschool and kindergarten, hopefully teachers and parents can confidently answer, "Yes, they do, and it's exactly what they need."

Have fun playing and learning with your children today.


  1. I've been preparing a report to "convince" my principal to let kindergarten have a dramatic play center because he would rather them be doing "pencil and paper" activities. This is going to be great to refer to, plus the article you mentioned. Thank you so much for doing a post about the importance of dramatic play and how beneficial it can be if done the right way!

    Terrific Teaching and Learning

    1. I'm so glad you found it helpful! Best wishes on your report. I hope that you can find ways to incorporate dramatic play that are beneficial to your students.

  2. This is an amazing post!! I have been hard at work on turning in our dramatic play into an amazing learning experience. You have inspired me to take it to the next level! Your dramatic play centers are FABULOUS!! Great job, Jamie!

  3. Wow! Thank you for sharing! As only one of very few reading interventionist in my district I've been saying for years the importance of play for literacy learning! This will be shared with my preschool teacher and my boss.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I hope that you are able to find ways to incorporate dramatic play into your literacy lessons.

  4. I absolutely love this post, Jamie! Dramatic play is crucial during these early years... not only for social reasons, but also for all of the academic reasons you mentioned in your post! Plus, I just love all the creativity and imagination that ensues with dramatic play! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Thanks for share ! very useful article. Such lessons are very good for baby.
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  6. I've been trying to find an fun and easy way to incorporate ELA into my Kitchen/Dramatic Play center. I love the menu/order taking idea. Do you have your "order taking" forms available for download somewhere? Thanks for the great ideas!!

  7. now I will know where to give the older child. Very useful article. I think it's right to develop a child from early childhood.

  8. Nice! thank you so much! Thank you for sharing. Your blog posts are more interesting and impressive. I think there are many people like and visit it regularly, including me.

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