The dramatic play area is the center of our classroom community. So much fun, hands-on learning takes place there! We love to set it up with simple themes, like a restaurant, and elaborate themes, like this cookie shop bakery. But, at its basic level, the dramatic play area is a kitchen where preschoolers engage in home living pretend play.
Our kitchen area takes up a large portion of the classroom. We have a 4-piece wooden kitchen set, a little table with chairs, and a dress-up closet. No matter the size of your kitchen play area, you can make it awesome. Include realistic props and organize it in a way that the children can play all day!
Introducing it to the Students
At the beginning of the school year, when we are introducing the classroom and centers (and basically hanging out in survival mode!) we teach our preschoolers how to use each area of the kitchen. To start, most of the cabinets are tied shut. There are just too many things in those cabinets for the students to use at first.
On the first day, we set the table with hamburgers and hot dogs, cups and plates. That was plenty to keep them happily engaged in play. Each day, we open a new space and discover the things that are inside.
Double Label System
On the day that we open the refrigerator, I take 1 or 2 of the baskets to circle time first thing in the morning. I introduce the toys and we talk about what they have in common. Then we go together as a group to the kitchen to see if we can figure out, together, where those baskets came from. This is the key for us! We label the basket with its contents, and we also label the shelf where the basket belongs. We take it very slowly at first, but by October our students are (mostly) pros at finding what they want to play with in the classroom and putting it away when they are done.
A Place for Everything!
Some people might think that we overdo it with the organization, but I truly believe that making the classroom routine, as well as the classroom environment, organized and predictable lends to a calm and secure feeling among our students. Things do not always get put away perfectly, but for the most part our students are able to exert ownership over the area because they know where everything belongs!
Our favorite toys are Green Toys brand, Hape, and Melissa & Doug. We love the quality and the fact that they are made of wood.
Here’s a picture of some of the wooden food accessories that we love. The lids come off of each one for an extra matching opportunity.
We add many fantastic kitchen props, as well as realistic elements like 2 “real” phones so that the students can call each other. If you don’t already have a collection of these phones, ask your families if they have any old ones to send in. Many people do and will be happy to donate them to the classroom.
Role Play Name Tags
Another element that helps our students play meaningfully in the kitchen dramatic play center is this set of role play name tags. We don’t always put them out, but find that when we do, the children try different roles and they play together in different ways.
Dress Up Options
The final area of our kitchen dramatic play center is the dress-up closet. We organize it just like the kitchen refrigerator and cabinets, with labels on the baskets and matching labels on the shelves.
Basic dress-up props include ties, baby gear, money, jewelry, hand bags and shoes. We also add hats, suits, dresses and costumes on a rotating basis throughout the year. The thrift shop is a great source for cheap, sometimes gaudy, dress-up clothes. At our school, the sparklier the item, the more popular it will be! It’s important to change the items in the center to keep it fresh.
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FREE Home Living Dramatic Play!
The dramatic play area is the center of our classroom community. So much fun, hands-on learning takes place there!
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Even if you have a much smaller kitchen area in your classroom, or even in your play room, I hope that you can use these tips and inspiration to create a smart, organized area for your children to pretend and role play.
All of the labels, name tags and printable signs that I use in our dramatic play kitchen are available for FREE! Just sign up for my free newsletter and I will send them to you. Enjoy!
For more fabulous dramatic play ideas, be sure to check out this list of A-Z Pretend Play ideas at Crafty Kids at Home.
I dream of teaching my kids to be this organised as home, but unfortunately this is still a work in progress for us! Thanks so much for taking part in our A-Z of Pretend Play Series with this great idea for a dramatic play set up. I can’t wait to get hold of the labels to make a start on our own.
First, I’m totally envious of your dramatic play space! What a wonderfully inviting place for all your students to interact. Our class dramatic play space is up in a loft. It’s pretty cool but also small. Only 4 kids at a time can go up there, so it’s a little bit of a logistics problem at the beginning of year. They are starting to catch on though. I LOVE your idea of “role” cards for helping with play. How do you model this? Are there issues with whose turn it is? Where do you keep/house the cards? We are turning our dramatic play area into a vet’s office next month..the cards will be a great way to facilitate roles (animal intake, vet, asst., groomer). Thank you for all your creative ideas! – Jenn
Jamie White, M.Ed.
I love the idea of a loft! That sounds like so much fun! When you have a big theme, you might be able to include other areas of the classroom into it (a waiting area below, for example, at your vet’s office). I hang the role play name tags on 3M hooks nearby. The first time the area is set up, I will pass them out during circle time by way of introduction. After that, I usually only have to intervene if there is a very popular job. Otherwise the students are able to negotiate with each other and figure it out. I hope you have a great school year!
I am super excited about these printables!! They are very cute, and it will help organize dramatic play and ease the children’s access to materials. I was wondering how long it usually takes to receive them? Thanks so much!!
Jamie White, M.Ed.
You should receive an instant email, with a clickable link and password, as soon as you signed up. If it’s not in your spam folder, please send me an email and I will resend it! Thanks for your enthusiasm. 🙂
how do i download these resources, the labels are lovely !
As a teacher of preschool children who have autism, teaching play is a daily challenge in my classroom. I love the idea of the name tags to take on the different roles in the dramatic play center. I will definitely be trying this out in my room.
Jamie White, M.Ed.
I’m so glad it’s helpful. Thanks for your comment!