Dramatic play/ role play whatever you want to call is the pinnacle of play based learning. There is so much learning involved while playing .These posts on Scholastic and on Crayon Freckles sum up clearly the importance and benefits of role play.
Here we have gathered a number of general role play ideas which have many elements to encourage reading, writing, doing simple math. Under each general idea we have collected numerous ways to set up the same dramatic play. Choose the one which appeals to you and surprise your child with a fun role play setup. The reason for including many links for the same idea is the multiple differences in details. It could be the same flower shop or same picnic or school , but different blogs have varying focus on the same play idea. Please pay attention to the details in each link and you should have a fair idea on how to create a resourceful play scene. Of course, you can always completely forget about play based learning and just play!
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I have categorized the tons of ideas in the post below in 4 MAIN categories for easy reading.
Dramatic Play Ideas that encourage
- Reading & Writing
- Math Skills
- Vocabulary & Concepts
- Overcoming anxiety & fears
Reading and writing
All role play ideas can be turned into reading, writing,math and getting creative prompts. That’s why the ideas generally will fall into more than 1 category. Having said that, some play set ups have a built-in literacy or math prompts like school role play, library role play, post office role play, store play. The following categorization is based simply on my observation of my child’s play style.
School Dramatic Play
What kind of play encourages reading and writing than class room dramatic play set up. All the kids love to pretend to be adults ot anyone who is in charge. Kids who are used to school or who have seen homeschooling moms teach would love to engage this kind of play. When they carry out a teacher’s role it inevitably ends up with some reading.
Inner Child Fun - fun and frugal
Learn With Play at Home – with tips for extending the play.
Childhood101- with a useful list of materials needed.
Library Dramatic Play
This kind of role play idea has so much potential for reading and writing . The following links each has a unique focus and please pay attention to the details in the posts.
The Good Long Road’s - very creative library setup. The laptop is genius
No Time for Flash Cards – easy tutorial on making index cards flaps
The Pleasantest Thing‘s- brimming with details without being fancy.
Post Office Dramatic Play
This kind of play doesn’t need any introduction. Post office role play screams fun writing, scribbling, pre-writing, doodling, drawing. It can be anything. Visit the following links for more inspiration and ideas.
My personal favorite -Post Office Play setups have oodles of opportunities for writing.Visit these links and see how each of these talented bloggers have set up their post office in a different way. Check them out and be inspired!
Nurture Store ‘s- tips for creating gentle writing prompts while having fun with the kids.
Buggy and Buddy’s adorable post office set up is something you want to look into.
Kids Activities Blog- play mailboxes and play kits.
Let’s Lasso the Moon‘s- family mailbox
Crayons Freckles – realistic mailbox using simply a brad
Getting Messy with Jessi - mail delivery process.
Office Dramatic Play
Kids love to pretend to be adults. What’s more exciting to them than pretending to work at an office, making phone calls, punching calculators and using grown up pens. This role play idea encompasses multiple categories, language, fine motor and reading&writing.
Mom with a lesson plan‘s -opportunities to engage in writing
Teach Preschool’s use of real items to setup a role play scene is fantastic.
Restaurants and Coffee Shops play are also a wonderful way to encourage reading and math (menus, prices). Down below I have included them in our language category.
Vocabulary and Concepts
Allmost all dramatic play prompts develop budding language and conversation skills. Some more than the others, especially the ones where there are more than one distinct role to be played. If your are in the moment playing with your child( the best kind!) or if the child has a companion or at times if the kid is taking on more than 1 role, the following ideas are worth taking a look.
Picnics and Tea Parties
Creative Playhouse – toddler picnic.
Growing a Jeweled Rose – tea party.
Construction Zones & Workshops
Crayon Freckles - play dough construction zone
Little Explorers – “Fix It” workshop.
No Time for Flash Cards – restaurant dramatic play idea.
La Force be with you – wonderful DIY recipe book for kids. Easily adapt the idea and turn it into a menu
Fireflies and Mudpies - squash shop with fun conversation
Glittering Muffins - door to door salesperson
Any store/ restaurant related role play set up will have inbuilt math play prompt. Below I have a few fantastic and inspiring stores role play ideas
Bakery/ Sweet Shop
Our own bakery dramatic play
Kids Activities Blog- play dough candy store
No Time For Flash Cards‘s toy store
L earn with play at home - learn numbers
Let’s go Fly a Kite - has a handy materials list for a fun flower shop play
The Imagination Tree – Garden center
Ice Cream Shop
Learning 4 Kids‘s- ice cream shop with recyclables
A Mom with a lesson Plan - easy set up but full of ideas for play materials.
Playing House has a ultra simple grocery store set up. No reason not to do this with your kid.
I think playing “Bank” would be a great idea for older kids. Introducing simply ” deposit” and “withdrawal” terms while showing them what they mean is a fun way to introduce “Money” to them.
Crayon Freckles - use lite brite to play bank. Extend the activity depending on the kid’s age.
Kindergartenkindergarten has a clever way to use a tri-fold board as an ATM.
The Imagination Tree -works as a reading prompt as well.
Growing a Jeweled Rose - sensory play and dramatic play set up.
Fairy and the Frog - play dough coffee Shop
Tinkerlab – box truck (must see!)
Dramatic play is great for over coming fears and many kids are not so ok with going to the doctor, am I right? Role play can be used to ease the child into any situation. If my child is afraid of the doctor I’d set up a simple hospital role play. For kids who are uncomfortable with hair cuts, hair salon play would be great. Also fears need not be the only issue that can be addressed Think about slow to warm up or at times shy kids. Role playing a certain anxious situation like park/play ground or simply a store would be a wonderful tool to overcome hesitation and worry. Ideally role play ideas under language skills would overlap with overcoming anxiety.
Some hospital and doctor’s office set-ups
Growing a Jeweled Rose – hospital setup
Fairy and the Frog -doll hospital set up
Crayon Freckles - Doc Mc Stuffins Play
Hair Salon - For fun or to overcome haircut anxiety
Dramatic Play in the Tub!
Few more incredible ideas
Cloud Dough ice cream shop set-up with a homemade recipe
So many possibilities, so many spins..
The following are a few affiliate links to some cool play props.
Some wonderful collaborative e-books we have released!
A book filled with playful science and math activities
Check out our resourceful e-book filled with many preschool play ideas.
We have also collaborated on another e-book with simple and practical baby play ideas.