Last week we talked about your Block Area and how it’s sometimes difficult for parents to see what their children are learning in that area. This week, we take on an even bigger challenge; the Dramatic Play Area. “Seeing” learning in a Dramatic Play Area can be difficult. Parents can also feel challenged when their child is choosing an activity that does not meet the parent’s expectation of gender appropriateness. I once had a father become very upset because his son chose to play with a baby doll. Of course, what this father didn’t see was that his son was trying out a role and practicing caring for someone else.
So, other than caring skills and empathy, what else can children learn in a Dramatic Play Area?
- Compromise and problem-solving skills. If two children both want the same role, but it wouldn’t be appropriate, or we just don’t have enough materials for it, how do they decide who gets to play which role? How do you keep the play going if there is a conflict?
- Fine and gross-motor skills. Putting on costumes can be tricky, as can working with various props.
- Language. Certain language is appropriate for certain situations. Children learn to use the right vocabulary and phrasing for their make-believe situation.
- Writing. If your Dramatic Play Area is a restaurant this week, someone will need to write down the customers’ orders.
- Empathy. Children can learn to understand how they are feeling about a situation and how their classmate is feeling as well.
- Creativity. We can provide the best space in the world, but the children still need to develop their own story in using the space and the props.
Speaking of space and props, what will that look like?
- Like the Block Area, the Dramatic Play Area needs to be away from your quiet areas.
- The space needs to be well-defined, but not necessarily by shelves. A shelf for materials can be quite useful, but a lot of Dramatic Play Areas will have kitchen furniture (stove, refrigerator, etc.) and some sort of coat rack or other method of hanging clothes/costumes.
- The space needs to be well-organized. Dramatic Play Areas can become overwhelming with too many materials that are not easily accessible. A few items on hooks will be used much more than a huge box of random clothes.
- Provide a variety of materials—pants, shirts, dresses, hats (that can be easily and regularly washed), shoes, accessories, household items, writing materials.
- Rotate your materials. As much fun as dramatic play can be, it can also get boring if it’s always the same items. This is another great place to bring in props related to your current theme. This will extend learning on your theme and keep your Dramatic Play Area from becoming boring.
Next week, we’ll talk about an Art Area.