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.
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.