Every week, I change my dramatic play area to go with the letter of the week. Yes, it takes a lot of time to change it every week, but it’s worth it! Every Monday I can hear the students outside the door making predictions about what it will be. The “Ooooos” and “Ahhhhhhhs” I hear when they excitedly walk through the door make it worth it! I usually have parents take a peek too!
It was challenging coming up with ideas and materials my first year, but after the first year, it got easier as I accumulated supplies and figured out shortcuts. I was not always good about taking and/or saving photos of every theme, but I’m going to try and be really good about it this year, just for you! 🙂 Be sure to check throughout the school year to see updated photos.
A Few Tips Before You Begin…
There are some supplies that I feel are “must haves” for TK classrooms.
- kitchen (I move mine around a lot, so I like the individual pieces better than the one big all-in-one kitchen set)
- cash register
- aprons (these can be used for many of the dramatic play roles listed below)
- play food
- play dishes and utensils
- table/chair set
- multicultural dolls
- purses/wallets/play money
If you have more money in your budget:
- cleaning set (broom, mop, etc.)
- baby items (stroller, crib, clothes, etc.)
- lab coats or scrubs (these can be used for bakers, scientists, vets, and other roles in dramatic play)
- toy appliances (washer/dryer, mixer, blender, microwave, coffeemaker, etc.)
You just won the lottery:
- anything by Melissa and Doug (costumes, food, etc.)
- anything by Lakeshore (great quality and it will last a lifetime)
- costumes (career costumes, character costumes, role-play costumes, etc.)
- props (camping equipment, tent, doctor set, play tools, farm animals, hats, etc.)
- multicultural and other food sets (sushi, pizza, cutting fruit set, taco set, sandwich set, cupcake set, cookie set, etc.)
- shopping carts and baskets
- anything that will go with one or more of your themes
Things that you may get for free:
- monitors, headsets, telephone, and keyboards (people always want to get rid of these)
- electronic equipment (stereo for dramatic play scientist/x-ray/astronaut)
- toys from your former students (if they have outgrown them)
- shoes, purses, wallets, and used adult clothing (vests, gloves, dresses, etc.)
- stuffed animals for your animal/vet hospital (you can even ask students to bring in a “patient” from home that week)
- play food boxes (ask families to collect containers that they use over the weekend)
- art supplies for making props (toilet paper rolls for binoculars, etc.
Aa Week: Animal Hospital
For this dramatic play area, I set up an animal hospital. It has a front desk, a waiting room, and an examination room. I also reuse these supplies much later in the year when this becomes a vet hospital. The students have lab coats, an x-ray machine (an old karaoke machine), and tools/supplies like bandages, stethoscopes, dog food (brown pompons), bowls for water, grooming brushes, and more. They can bring patients from home or examine the animals I have in the classroom.
Bb Week: Bakery
Each day I change out what they are baking. Monday they may bake cupcakes, Tuesday they make brownies, Wednesday, they make cookies, etc. They can be customers or bakers. Melissa and Doug have great baking sets, or you can make your own out of felt. I made cookies and other treats out of felt, and I put velcro on the back of each treat. They “stock” the bakery case by placing the items onto the bakery case on my bakery backdrop. I also use this backdrop for other dramatic play themes. In the photos you can see the pink backdrop being used for a bakery and an ice cream shop. I just have the students stock the bakery case with different items according to the theme.
Cc Week: Construction Zone
Each day they build with different materials (blocks, magnatiles, bristle blocks, etc.). They also fix things in the classroom. They have tools, helmets, and aprons. I got my aprons for free at Home Depot and Lowe’s.
Dd Week: Doctor’s Office
I use most of the same materials for Dd, Aa, and Vv week. I just change the patients from the animal/vet hospital to dolls, or the students can be the patients. There is a front desk (they love typing on the keyboard and clicking the mouse, even though they are not connected to anything), an examining table, and a waiting room. The “doctors” use clipboards and check off the patient’s vital signs on the examination log.
Ee Week: Elf Workshop
I usually do this right before we go on Winter Break. This is by far the students’ favorite dramatic play area of the year. The students dress like elves and wrap presents (little ornaments that I inherited from our office staff). I usually ask parents to donate old wrapping paper that they no longer want/need. When I don’t get donations, I buy the cheapest wrapping paper and bows I can find. This workshop involves loads of find motor practice like cutting, taping, writing (names on gifts), unwrapping, tying, gluing, and more! At the end of the week, they are experts at wrapping, and they can wrap their holiday gifts with little or no help from me.
Ff Week: Farm
This is another favorite! The farm has changed over the years, as you can see in the photos that are posted. At the farm, the students groom the horses, tend the garden, pick fruit from the trees, collect berries from the bushes, collect eggs, and more. They love making animals to add to the farm. I also have animal masks and costumes so that they can choose to be a farmer or a farm animal.
Gg Week: Greasemonkey Garage
The garage has a front desk, a workshop with tools, and a place to work on the vehicles. I bring in my son’s toy cars (Cozy Coupe) for this dramatic play theme. When he outgrows them, I plan on just asking my families if they have cars/vehicles that I can use for the week. I made a backdrop that has a fuel dispenser with a removable pump on the front. On the other side of the backdrop is a place for the students to place the tools that are used in the garage. They have a blast driving around the classroom (as long as they don’t get too crazy).
Hh Week: Home Sweet Home
Nothing is better than Home Sweet Home! I use my pink backdrop to make a little house (it can be reconfigured to make an “L” shape or go straight across). The house has a kitchen and a room for the babies. I add strollers and baby care items, and I open the grocery store around the corner so that they can shop for supplies to make dinner. They can also rearrange the flowers in the front of the house (they have velcro on the back of them). I add costumes like ties, aprons, vests, dresses, etc.
Ii: Iggy’s Ice Cream Shop
I also reuse this one for Yy Week (yogurt shop) by changing the sign. I use the pink backdrop in a straight line so that there is a front door to the shop. It has a front counter where customers can order ice cream, sundaes, and more! Students can also stock the bakery case with felt ice cream cones that I made.
Jj Week: Jungle
Another favorite! This one has changed over the years. I used to hang vines all over the place from the ceiling…until the vines set off the motion detector one weekend. :-0 Now I hang the vines from the bookshelf behind the tent or from the tent itself. The students have explorer vests, sleeping bags, tents, binoculars, notebooks, canteens, lanterns, safari hats, and more! I also bring in the animal costumes mid-week so that they can choose to be a jungle animal or jungle explorer/scientist.
Kk Week: Kitchen
I couldn’t think of anything other than Kindergarten and Kitchen. If you have a better idea, please share! This week, the dramatic play area looks a lot like the “Home Sweet Home” area. I add lots of different types of costumes (career costumes, fairy tale costumes, etc.) to change it up a bit. Students can also go to the grocery store to shop for supplies for their kitchen.
Ll Week: Lakeside Lodge
Another favorite! For this dramatic play theme, I set up a campsite, complete with a campfire and supplies to make s’mores. It looks a lot like the dramatic play area for Jj Week, but mid-week I add a lake (with magnetic fish, numbers, or letters in it) and an inflatable life raft.
Mm Week: Market
Another favorite! On Friday, I send an email out to my families asking them to collect food containers for our market (rice/pasta boxes, egg containers, and anything else that is not made of glass). I set up our market with food from our kitchen and grocery store and add aprons, bags, a scanner, a cash register, purses/wallets, grocery baskets and grocery carts (Melissa and Doug sell a cart that is almost indestructable). The students add the items from home, and our store is complete! I later reuse these items during Nn Week (Nugget Market), then I use them for a recycling activity during Rr Week. Lastly, I recycle the items or, if they can be used to create art, I put the supplies in the art station.
Nn Week: Nugget Market
I couldn’t think of anything other than the nesting place and Nugget. I figured that there would be more opportunities for interaction with a market than a nest. I make sure that Nn Week and Mm Week are far enough apart so that the dramatic play are is “new” again. I change the sign from the original store to “Nugget”, then it’s ready to go!
Oo Week: Office
When I had originally thought of this one, I didn’t really think that it would be as popular as it ended up being! I set up an office complete with front desk (monitor, keyboard, mouse, and telephone), a waiting room, and a work station where they can write notes, address envelopes, and stamp/staple/tape as much as they want! They love stapling, taping, writing notes and more!
Pp Week: Pizza Place
I have also had a post office, but they like the pizza place better. I cut out circles out of brown felt, and my parent volunteers helped me to make all of the toppings for the pizzas out of felt (cheese is just cut up yarn). I put the toppings in baskets, and the students can make their own pizzas (or order a personal pizza if they are a customer). After the pizza has been made, paid for, and eaten, the students need to sort the toppings back into the containers. WARNING: THIS TAKES TRAINING!! Mid-week, I add pirate, princess, and prince costumes for the customers. I also add a picnic basket if they would like to make their pizza and take it “to go”.
Qq Week: Quizno’s
If you have a better idea for Qq Week, please share! Quizno’s and quiet were the only things I could think of for this dramatic play area! Every day at Quizno’s, they make different kinds of sandwiches. They make traditional sandwiches, wraps, and more! Once again I use little baskets to sort the sandwich toppings. They love wearing the gloves when making the sandwiches, and they LOVE wrapping the sandwiches in foil. A parent donated this years ago, and the one box has lasted over three years! I have the students reuse the foil until it falls apart.
Rr Week: Restaurant
Every day, the restaurant changes (Mexican, Asian, Sandwich Shop, coffee shop, and their favorite, McDonald’s). I try to change the “decor” daily according to the type of restaurant, and the students have different food sets to play with this week.
Ss Week: Space Station (or Science Lab)
Another favorite! Over the years I have been able to accumulate costumes and supplies for this dramatic play theme. I found a sound mixer, karaoke machine, and stereo equipment for SUPER CHEAP or free on Craigslist and/or garage sales. I set up my space station tent (Thanks Chevron, for fueling my school! 🙂 ) and all of the equipment for “ground control”. During the week, I add different elements like “moon rocks”, magnifying lenses, and more.
Tt Week: Train Station
Another favorite! Our train station has a train, a front desk, a waiting room, and a security checkpoint. The conductor and the engineer have costumes (Melissa and Doug). Passengers check their luggage as the conductor punches their ticket. I add babies and costumes for the passengers mid-week.
Uu Week: Underwater Sea Lab
It’s kind of a pain to make the submarine, but the students have a great time decorating it! I add all sorts of sea life realia (shells, sea stars, etc.), beach balls, magnifying lenses, microscopes and more! I also open the sand table for sand play, and the students can go fishing with our magnetic fishing poles. I’m thinking of adding scuba masks and tanks (2-liter bottles held together with duct tape) this year. We will “sea” how this goes…
Vv Week: Veterinary Hospital
Yes, I’m recycling the theme from Aa Week, but by the time I have Vv Week, Aa Week has long been forgotten.
Ww Week: Winter Wonderland
Another favorite! It is difficult to make the igloo, but the kids love crawling through it. They also love making snowflakes to decorate the dramatic play area. This week is filled with snowball fights, hot cocoa, cookie making, and more!
Xx Week: eXercise Studio
Another favorite! In this dramatic play area, the students play indoor games (catch, parachutes), lift weights, do exercises, design a balance maze, practice boxing (they looooooove this), and do aerobics and yoga. Lakeshore has some great P.E. supplies that I use for this theme. I’ll try to post photos when I get to Xx Week this year.
Yy Week: Yogurt Shop
Once again, I am recycling the ice cream shop. They never seem to notice. I’ve also had a yoga studio, but the yogurt shop is more fun and engaging. Change the sign from Ii week, and you are ready to go!
Zz Week: Zoo
Another favorite! Sometimes the students take care of the stuffed animals, and sometimes they are the animals. One day this week, I paint the kids’ faces to look like their favorite zoo animal. I make sure that I have a parent volunteer on this memorable day!