Pretend Play

Managing Centers in Preschool

Let's set the scene for a moment... you just set up an epic pumpkin patch in your dramatic play center. It is complete with pumpkins (uh, I'd hope so), a wheelbarrow, leaves and rakes, a scarecrow, and...yes you get it- the center is AH-MAZING!

So, what do all your children do when they arrive? They race to your homemade Pumpkin Patch! All 10 of them, in unison! You think, 'Oh, how nice this will be- the whole class playing together!' Then, reality sets in and all you hear is "No, I want to be the cashier!" and "Teacher, he just took my pumpkin!" and "OWW! Billy just hit me with the rake!" So much for playing together...

The problem was there was too many kids in one area of the classroom. They couldn't play freely, they couldn't talk out what roles they were going to play because there was just too many of them!

One thing to know about my classroom is that we are play-based. I never force students to go to certain centers, they are allowed to choose where they want to work and whom they might want to work with. That being said, the morning of the Pumpkin Patch they ALL happened to want to choose the Drama Center (of course they did- it is epic after all!).

So, I had to come up with a solution that did not involve micro-managing their choices. So, here it is folks- the moment you've been waiting for... Wait, I am pretty sure this idea has been out there awhile, but it is working for me- so maybe it will work for you?

Limit the number of kiddos in each center! I might have built this up a little too much...please accept my apology. BUT, it is working...really well!

See those signs with numbers on them in the pics above? Yep, those are my little miracle workers, baby! I have some signs that allow 4 students to be in the center (Drama and Blocks) and some that allow 2 students (all the rest of the centers) at a time. Those little silver circles under the number? Washers (make sure they are magnetic!) that I hot glued to the laminated signs.

Then, I bought some thick cardboard pieces from the craft store. I think the ones in the picture above were supposed to be chalkboard labels or something. I added a magnet to the back (buy some thick heavy duty magnets, not that stuff on a roll) and DONE!

Now, when the center is full of names, my kiddos know that they have to pick somewhere different to go until a spot opens up. I have loved the management side of it, but also it encourages some of my kiddos to try out centers they may not have tried before!

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Cookie Shop Pretend Play

One of my favorite units during the year is our Gingerbread Themed Unit.  It is a great start to our Holiday Season with the thought of warm cookies straight out of the oven.  We may not have an oven in our classroom to make real cookies, but we sure can pretend!  I set up a pretend cookie shop in our dramatic play center and now my students are little bakers!!

Pretend Play Cookie Shop perfect for pretend baking during the Holidays!
Pretend Play Cookie Shop perfect for pretend baking during the Holidays!

In the Sweet Cookie Shop children can pretend to create frosted sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies and chocolate chip cookies.  I like to provide my students with lots of tools for baking and to keep them organized I like to label everything.  For the cookies, I used stiff felt and cut them into circles.  For the gingerbread cookies I traced a gingerbread cookie cutter and cut them out.  To add frosting, I cut circles of different colored felt and added sprinkles with a permanent marker.  My kiddos have enjoyed mixing and baking up cookies!

Get your preschoolers pretend baking with this fun Cookie Shop for the Dramatic Play Center!
Get your preschoolers pretend baking with this fun Cookie Shop for the Dramatic Play Center!

Would you like to set up a Pretend Play Cookie Shop in your classroom?  Here is a printable set to help you out!

Pretend Play Cookie Shop
Pretend Play Cookie Shop

Pretend Play Pumpkin Patch

It's time to pick a pumpkin!  I set up this Pretend Play Pumpkin Patch for my kiddos to enjoy.  It has been one of their favorites so far!  This pumpkin patch is perfect for your preschool drama center.  It not only encourages creativity and working with peers but there are also gross motor and early writing benefits as well!

Pretend Play Pumpkin Patch- bring the patch into your preschool classroom easily with these printables!
Pretend Play Pumpkin Patch- bring the patch into your preschool classroom easily with these printables!

To set the scene, I got a little scarecrow guy from a craft store.  I also purchased some ears of fake corn and some artificial sunflowers.  To make the small pumpkins, I bought orange gift bags (also from the craft store), filled them with newspaper, tied them off with string and added a green pipe cleaner for a twisty vine.  To make the large pumpkins, I bought an orange tablecloth and cut it into large squares (I doubled up the tablecloth to make it more durable) and added newspaper, tied it and added a pipe-cleaner vine.  My kiddos loved picking these pumpkins and putting them in the wheelbarrow.

Create a pumpkin patch in your dramatic play center!  Pretending in preschool encourages social interaction, writing and creative thinking.
Create a pumpkin patch in your dramatic play center! Pretending in preschool encourages social interaction, writing and creative thinking.

I also placed artificial leaves (from the Dollar Tree) on our rug.  Students used a child-sized plastic rake to rake the leaves.  It was loads of fun!

Want to make your own Pumpkin Patch in your Drama Center?  Do it easily with the Pumpkin Patch Pretend Play Props:

Pretend Play Pumpkin Patch is perfect for your preschool drama center.  Encourage writing, gross motor and social skills easily with this pack!
Pretend Play Pumpkin Patch is perfect for your preschool drama center. Encourage writing, gross motor and social skills easily with this pack!

Pretend Play Office in Preschool

Pretend Play Office for Dramatic Play Center Pre-k
Pretend Play Office for Dramatic Play Center Pre-k

Pretending is such a creative outlet for our children.  They love to do the things that they see us doing.  They love to act out scenarios in which they get to be somewhere or someone that they currently are not.  So, when I created an Office in our dramatic play center, children were over the moon excited about getting right to 'work'!

Create a pretend play office in the dramatic play center of your preschool.
Create a pretend play office in the dramatic play center of your preschool.

In our Pretend Office, I set up a computer monitor and keyboard, old school telephones (surprisingly, not one student asked what they were), calculators, message/memo forms, pens, highlighters (for highlighting important messages), a phone book (I made one for us) and sticky notes (because let be honest, what is an office without sticky notes?).

This year in our Drama Center I was fortunate enough to get an awesome market stand from Melissa and Doug.  I adore it.  It will transform into so many different things this year!  For the Pretend Office, I used the tubs that were included with the market stand and put the supplies in.  That way everything could be organized when it was time to clean up.  I also have another small child sized table that I set the computer monitor and another phone on.

This Pretend Office was such a hit with students.  They loved picking up the phone to talk, writing memos and typing.  I loved that they were writing, looking at numbers on the phone and letters on the keyboard!

Do you want to create your own Pretend Office area using the printables seen in the picture above?  I have put all the printables you need in the Pretend Play Props: Office packet.  Hop on over to Teachers Pay Teachers to check it out!

Pretend Play Office Printables for the Preschool Drama Center.
Pretend Play Office Printables for the Preschool Drama Center.

Preschool Drama Center

Ideas and resources for a preschool, pre-k or kindergarten Drama center.

Pretend Play Center

DRAMA CENTER MATERIALS

These are the core materials I like to have in my Drama Center.  I change out my drama center every two weeks and create it into something new.

Dress Up Area: I have a dress up cart that is awesome for storing dress up items.  Depending on the theme of the drama center the clothing in the dress up cart changes.

Child-Sized Table and Chairs: Having child sized table and chairs are perfect for using for many of the themes I use.  You  could also use a child sized picnic table.  This table has been a 'desk' during office theme, a 'kitchen table' during our home theme and a workspace for gardening theme.

Market Stand: This is my favorite piece in the drama center.  It is so versatile!  During our airplane theme this stand becomes a ticket counter.  During our apple theme the stand becomes a check-out counter.  When we had our office theme, this was used as an office cubicle!

Kitchen: A play kitchen is conducive to some of the themes we have in our drama center, but not all.  For the majority of the themes in our room, the kitchen is not used.