Dramatic play allows children to express themselves and use creativity. It also introduces symbolic thinking and encourages cooperation among children. In a dramatic play center, children will often act out behaviors and actions they see in real life (such as shopping at the grocery store) as well as make-believe situations (such as a princess in a castle).
Location: Good places for a dramatic play center might be near a block center or another area where children's play tends to be noisy. Ideally, the center should be bordered by shelves and/or other furniture (e.g., table and chairs, play refrigerator, etc.), or walls. Avoid placing the dramatic play center too close to the book area or other centers that require quiet concentration.
Display: You can use shelves, plastic containers, hooks, shoe racks or hanging bags, coat racks, and wire baskets to display props in an orderly manner. Be sure to label items with pictures and words where necessary. Whenever possible, hang up costumes so children can see them more easily.
The dramatic play center should have a wide variety of open-ended materials to encourage creative thinking. Some examples include:
Keep in mind that the props and themes you choose for dramatic play should be appropriate for the ages and developmental levels of the children in the group. Younger children need more familiar everyday objects, such as kitchen items. Preschoolers and school-age children may enjoy more imaginative themes, such as castles or undersea adventures. Choose dramatic play props and themes that match the children's interests and coordinate with curriculum topics.
To learn more about dramatic play and other learning centers in child care, take a look at the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles: