Preschool Activities Through Learning Centers: #1-The Dramatic Play Area

Preschool and kindergarten activities take place many times throughout the day.

Circle time or teaching time as some preschool teachers call it, outdoor time, trips, extra activities like music and library etc.

The  preschool activities that I am going to address here are the ones that take place in the centers of a center based classroom during the work period.

I call the time that the children spend in the centers work period because first of all  children’s  play IS work as you can read in this piece called The Importance of Play and secondly if the centers are set up correctly the children can actually be using thinking and problem solving skills along with their play which is called work according to even traditional theories.

Ideally this is the way a good preschool and kindergarten curriculum should be run. I have a few past posts that talk about What  is  a work period and in general what an integrated curriculum is all about

Units or themes can be planned and activities that are connected to that theme can be added to the different centers. This way the whole curriculum is cohesive.

If you are homeschooling your child you can probably do a center based type of curriculum on a scaled back version but you can certainly use the center ideas and activities. (You just cant have them all going on at the same time).

Two ways to run centers

Center in a kindergarten or nursery classroom can be dealt with in 2 ways.

You can fill up each area  or center with what you want to put in and just let it sit there the whole year.

Another way is to keep changing the centers to make the learning more exciting and actually more interesting to the children.

It’s like when you take away some the children’s games and toys for a few months and then take them down again, its’ like you bought new toys and they are as excited about them as if you just purchased them.

I am going to spend time going through each center and how to get the most out of it.

In this post I will start by concentrating on the dramatic play area, or as many call it the house or housekeeping area.

It definitely can be ONLY a house area if you set it up that way and leave it as such.

It becomes a dramatic play area when you turn the area into other types of places like fire houses, doctors offices etc.

So lets begin our center talk by starting with the dramatic play area.

Dramatic Play Area

If you are an early childhood educator you must be aware of how important it is for children to be able to play and act out what is ging on in their lives.

The children learn social skills and it often helps them deal with difficult situations that are going on in their lives.

The basic set up of a dramatic play area would be the classic housekeeping stuff.

The set up will be determined by the schools budget and if you are a home schooler and want to create a small area like this in your home for your preschoolers and how much energy and creativity YOU want to put into this.

Many of the materials don’t have to be from expensive educational resources if you can find some of the things you need at home or from parents of the children.

Some of the materials you may need.

Housekeeping area

  • Small table
  • Children’s chairs
  • Kitchen equipment like stove, sink refrigerator
  • Mirror
  • Small rug
  • Small dolls bed
  • Baby carriage
  • High chair
  • Dress up clothes
  • Fake food
  • Dishes

You should try to add the items that are common to the place you live in and common to the children s lives.

If you know that none of these children have any babies in their homes maybe you would not want to put baby paraphnelia in there.

What is considered common to a farm family in USA will not necessarily be the same as city people in South Africa

One way if integrating the centers is by allowing the children to create food and other items they may need in the art area for use in their housekeeping area.

Curriculum and the dramatic play area

Here’s where you can tie curriculum into real life.

If you are basing your unit on a trip that you took then it would be a good idea to turn the dramatic play area into that area for a certain period.

You can also listen to how the children are playing and bring in items to help them play out what they are doing anyway.


You can add a

  • Cash register
  • Fake fruits and vegetables
  • Bakets or bags that are used to carry purchases
  • Step stools for stacking items
  • Large boxes

Doctors office

  • White coat
  • Doctors kit (with stethoscope, fake needles, blood pressure cuff)
  • Table, mattress or little bed for kids to be checked
  • Table for receptionist
  • Forms for kids to fill out

If you have any friends that are doctors you may want to ask him or her if they have any old stuff that they are not using anymore that you can use for the children

Fire Station

  • Fire hats
  • Hoses
  • Big boots
  • Homemade fire truck from boxes

I found this post about a classroom that actually set up some fire station play.

In this classroom they were actually using math skills at the same time.

Very often you don’t need need that much to transform the area into a different place for the children.

If you have children from different cultures you can even read up on the countries they come from and try to make the area a different country every few weeks or month.

I knew a teacher who used to keep boxes of items stored together for when the time arose.

If she saw the children playing Doctor, out would come the doctor box. Fire Station, out would come the fire station stuff.

The examples I gave you above may be some of the most common but if you keep your ears open and use your own creativity, I am sure you can come up with many different exciting ways to give the children fresh experiences in the dramatic play are PLUs other items to add to the ones I listed above.

6 Responses to Preschool Activities Through Learning Centers: #1-The Dramatic Play Area
  1. Nancy riley
    July 23, 2010 | 12:49 am

    I will be teaching 3yr olds and have 6 different center allocated, we will have center time twice during the 9-12 school day, Mon-thurs, how would you suggest revolving these with the kids.
    Thanks so much!!!!

  2. faigekobre
    July 23, 2010 | 1:20 pm

    Hi Nancy,
    I’m not exactly sure what you mean about revolving them with the kids but 3 yr olds need alot of dramatic play so I would probably leave a dramatic play area open all the time and a free art area open as well

  3. Debbie
    February 16, 2011 | 1:33 am

    I have my class room set up in centers and I just let the children go freely from one center to another. Some teachers only let a couple of the children go into a center at one time. After playing for 10 min’s or so they rotate the children into different centers. I am not sure I like to do centers in this way. What do you suggest?

  4. faigekobre
    February 16, 2011 | 1:47 am

    Debbie I agree with you. I wouldn’t switch the kids after 10 minutes, it barely gives them time to play in those centers.However, if you let kids go freely into other centers it may get overloaded. What I used to do was have the kids in a circle and say. “Ok these are the centers that are open today, and heres’s what’s available in those centers…who wants to go to this center? and to this center? Then I would monitor what is happening and help move kids to different centers if they are wandering or not focused.(If you are a preschool teacher Debbie and it sounds like you are, you may be interested in a different blog I have at which is art for kids,as this blog has moved away from a concentration on early childhood ed)

  5. darlene
    February 1, 2012 | 7:55 pm

    Hi Debbie,
    I am a preschool teacher, in my class we have a center chart and on that center chart there are
    different centers and on each center there is listed
    how many children can go into that area, the children start out by getting their name tag and choosing what center they would like to go in. Above each center there is a number from 3-5 when that area is full with the children’s name tag under it that area is closed and so the children that have not picked an area yet have a choice of another area till everyone is in a center. They come and ask the teachers if they are ready to change their area but they must finish the task and clean their area before choosing another area and they must be in that are area for 15 minutes or more and they also have to change their name tag to go into another area if that area is available. Make sure all your areas are engaging. In our class their are 10 areas. Construction, Libray and Listening,Dramatic Play, Science, Writing, Math, Creativity (art)and ABC area and also a Computer area. Everyday also there are children that may go to the same area if you notice this happening you might want to introduce that child to a new area once their in there they really enjoy themselves.I hope this helps. It keeps the class engaged and also orderly so your able to walk around and interact with the children.

    Have A Great Day
    P.S My students are 3-5 yr olds

  6. faigekobre
    February 1, 2012 | 9:27 pm

    Thats amazing Debbie that you have 10 centers. I used to always look for more centers and not all of them worked out .
    For your art center you might want to check out a blog that I have that I spend more time at than this one. its

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