Our pretend area as we call it, changes every two weeks with our theme. Some of my very favorite activities for these units include:
Friendship: a birthday party — complete with presents, hats, balloons, plates, “cake”, and streamers. Children take turns celebrating birthdays together.
Fall: a pumpkin patch – I pack a corner of my room with corn stalks, hay bales, straw hats, a scarecrow, pumpkins, and gourds. The children have the opportunity to investigate all these items first hand!
Manners: a tea party – a children’s tea set( or cups and dishes) a table, table cloth, silverware. Children get t practice” their manners.
Flowers: a flowers shop – silk flowers, flower pots, watering cans, gardening gloves, spritzing bottles, packets of seeds. Children can arrange flowers, pretend to grow seeds and care for flowers.
Summer: ice cream stand – cotton (ice cream) unopened containers of sprinkles, and toppings. Red palm-palm cherries, scoops, cones, napkins and pretend money.
Hawaiian Hula- Make the kids “grass skirts” Use construction paper and “streamers” (green) to make the skirt. Put on some Hawaiian music and let them hula!
Another great theme idea for the dress up area is to create an island. The children can call it Jamaica, Hawaii, etc. Get a few grass skirts, sunglasses, toy cameras, make palm trees, add shells and a sandbox and for extra fun add your water table with blue food coloring for the island water. Your kids are sure to have a blast!
While studying the letter “M” we turned our cooking center into a McDonalds. I was able to get lots of cups, happy meal boxes, sacks, and French fry boxes from our local McDonalds. I added some yellow tissue paper to wrap their hamburgers in. Then we made signs to decorate the center and also worked together during circle time to create a menu. There were lots of opportunities to recognize the letter “M” in this center. Later in the Art Center, we used various supplies (cardboard tubes, pipe cleaners, foam pieces,etc.) to build a playground. We glued and taped it to a large piece of cardboard along with a sign that said McDonalds.
I tried this activity with 3yr old children and they had a great time with it!
Props: Recycled, empty hair containers, child-sized smocks, hair dryers with cords cut off and duct tape over the holes on the end to ensure safety, curlers, scarves and any other props you would like to make this center complete. Let the children use their imaginations and just go with it!
Our school is fortunate to have collected prop kits for years. We store the props in a 12x10x15 inch, labeled storage boxes with lids. We are able to stack them on a high shelf when not in use. Some of the favorites have been the pet shop, shoe store, restaurant, fire station, ice cream shop and vet or hospital. At Christmas, we have a manger and dress up clothes for shepherds, angels, kings etc. A wrapping paper center with empty boxes, blocks, tape, scissors, and parent donated wrapping paper was a huge success. A collection of goodwill scarves, mittens and snow things go in the housekeeping area in winter. A volunteer many years ago made pilgrim clothes for us to use in November. Old wigs and wig stands, rollers, pins and broken blowdryers and combs are in the hairdresser box. The staff rotates responsibility monthly for setting up this center.
During a project on ‘what our parents do at work’ we turned out home corner into a partial office… as well as paper, pens, phones etc. we also added two old computer keyboards that a company had donated. The kids loved using the ‘computers’.
We also covered a large sheet of cardboard with a white book covering (we call it contact) and stuck in on the back on some shelves with some old (but not quite dead) whiteboard markers, and a whiteboard eraser to make a quick and easy whiteboard.
I purchased inexpensive nail aprons, disposable paint hats, empty paints cans (pint and quart sizes)and a variety of paint brushes from my local hardware store. My class “paints” the classroom. When the weather warms up, we bring the paint cans outside and fill them with water. The children paint the side of our brick building with water. They love it!
My Preschool and Pre-K kids love our ice cream store! I made yarn palm palm balls in “ice cream colors” for scoops of ice cream, ice cream cones out of cardboard covered in burlap, plastic ice cream scoops, play money, aprons, menu signs, and added lots of containers donated from a local ice cream place. Lots of neat interactions happen in this center!
We have a “kitchen” area that is used as a family eatery. This is similar to the other ideas, but we have managers, unruly guests, and our own name. We voted on a name (Happy Bear’s) and made menus (I love doing graphic things on the computer). The guest’s order and the wait staff write the first letter of the word and gives the order to the cook. We only allow 4 in each area so we have 2 workers and 2 guests.