Category Archives: Dramatic Play


The children have gone back to school but I’m not going to write about that yet.  The weather says it is still summer and my list of possible post topics is extensive so I’m going to stay in summer mode.

Last week the children engaged in an elaborate fishing adventure.  Years ago, when I first introduced sticks into our loose parts area, ‘fishing’ was the most popular use for the sticks.  The children often used sticks as fishing rods, found a spot to sit with a friend and together they would ‘fish’.

This was not really a dramatic play activity — this was conversation.  Talking was the main purpose but they liked to pretend they were fishing while they talked.  When we began gardening, the seating areas in the garden replaced ‘fishing’ as the favorite conversation area.

Last week’s fishing activity was different.  It started when one of the children was trying to tie knots in the pieces of wheat straw that we had put in the loose parts area.  When one of the pieces of wheat was tied to a stick he announced it was a fishing rod.

Another child used a mesh bag attached to a stick to create a net with which he could catch fish too.

Then, using an old pine cone and a plastic pipe a spear was created,

and tested;

There are so many ways to catch fish;

Back at the campsite, the others started a fire;

But before the fish could be cooked, they had to be cleaned;

I’ve never taken the children fishing.  Still, through play they’ve shown me how much they already know about it.

Like Chalk & Cheese

I’ve never heard that phrase before but when I asked Word for a synonym for ‘different’ one of the options I was given was ‘like chalk & cheese’.  I thought it was very fitting since neither chalk nor cheese is bad but they are very different – as are things around here.

I’ve had another day without batteries for my camera because I’ve been too busy to get to the store. Watching the children play has been different – but not necessarily bad — without a camera in hand.  Sure, there have been moments when I wished I had been able to take a picture but there have also been more opportunities for me to interact with the children too.

Of course sometimes ‘interacting’ seems more like ‘interfering’.  Like yesterday morning as the children were playing outside and one of the preschoolers was wandering back and forth across the yard carrying on what seemed to be random conversations with possibly imaginary playmates.  Although she didn’t appear to be talking to me I felt somewhat compelled to answer her questions when she was near me.

After the third or fourth time I answered a miscellaneous question she stopped pacing, stared at me and with an exasperated tone said “I’m not talking to you”.

“Who are you talking to?” I asked.

She sighed and lifted her hat just enough to expose the piece of bark – with wheat straw antenna – that she had stuck against her ear. “Can’t you see my cell phone?” she replied.

Yes, now I do. I love symbolic play. Now please excuse me while I go make a camera so I can take a picture of your phone…:-)

The other children were busy too.  Several of them were playing with the hoola hoops.  They had started by playing some sort of tag game in which their movements and ‘escape routes’ were restricted to the pathways created by the hoops. I thought it was a cool game, they were cooperating so well and it was such a unique way to play tag in a small space.

Then they began using the hoops to make wings.  Some of the children were butterflies.  Others were birds.  One used four hoops to create a really wide wingspan and announced that he was an eagle.

One of the girls used her two hoops to form a circle and then she curled up inside of it.  “What are you?” I asked.

“Right now I’m a cocoon” she said “but soon I’ll be a butterfly”.

Following this we then had many eggs and cocoons which became birds and butterflies which laid more eggs and spun more cocoons and so on….

You get the picture – even without a camera.

School starts next week so I’ll have few ‘full day’ children here.  Everything will be so different.  I’m going to miss the long periods of free play – the creativity, cooperation and imagination.  I’m going to miss watching them learn.

However, I can’t say the days will be quiet or boring. We do have some of our old friends returning and a young infant will be joining our group. So the learning won’t end, it will just be different.

From Chocolate to Worms

The children need little from me when we are outdoors.  Indoors they sometimes need redirection or assistance choosing an appropriate activity but not outdoors.  Outside they are never bored.  They enjoy a wide variety of activities — sometimes active, often dramatic, always creative.  I should know better than to interfere.

Last week they engaged in an elaborate activity that involved all the children in a variety of roles.  They started a ‘chocolate factory’.  Mmmm. I do love chocolate.  This chocolate however was not your typical chocolate.  This chocolate came from a mine.  So first the ‘miners’ had to dig a mine to find the chocolate;

You see, the top layer of gravel is ‘vanilla’ but underneath the gravel is ‘chocolate’.  I know why, do you?

The ‘shopper’ had the task of working as liaison between the miners and the baker.  The shopper made regular trips from the bakery to the mine to get the necessary supplies.  She always arrived with empty containers but after a little negotiation — using gems for currency – she left with containers full of delicious chocolate;

The bakers were pleased.  They had plenty of cocolate to use in their cupcakes;

I got to pick my favorite — the one with the most chocolate of course 🙂

After I finished my cupcake I went for a walk in the garden and inadvertently ended the chocolate factory game.  You see, in the garden I noticed a multitude of cabbage worms on our broccoli plants.  My expression of annoyance and disgust attracted their attention and I was nearly trampled.

Apparently some people like worms more than chocolate;

I’m not one of them.  Even if they are just ‘baby’ worms and you try to persuade me they are ‘sprinkles’ I still don’t want any.  No thank-you, I’m not hungry anymore.


Last week the children  made a cake.  First they mixed the ingredients together;

Then they decorated it

Then they moved it to the oven to bake — it was very heavy so they really had to work together to accomplish this;

After baking they put it in the back of the car to take it to the party;

It took more combined effort to…Hey – why are you dumping the cake on the slide?

I guess if it is not really and edible cake your best option is to smash through it;

What fun!

Now I think I’m going to use these pictures to make a set of sequence cards.

Burgers & Fries

Yesterday the children engaged in ‘restaurant’ themed activities for most of the day.  It originated before school when the older children were still here.  I have a few pieces left from a themed playset that belonged to my own children when they were young.  The children use these toys together with miscellaneous other items for a wide variety of food related dramatic play activities.

This time they started making ‘McBurgers” and “McFries” – I’m not sure if they just created these names or if they are terms used at home but I’ve never heard them use the names before today.  I also noticed that the majority of the children chose customer roles leaving the workers scrambling to fulfil all the meal orders.  Usually when they play there are far too many cooks in the kitchen and there is considerable advertising required to attract customers – it is quite interesting.

After the older children left for school the remaining children – aged 2 to 5 – continued the game but now there were fewer customers so I was enlisted to play.

I requested ‘healthy’ food and was quickly offered a salad. Upon opening my lunch box I was surprised to see meat and buns mixed in with the lettuce and tomatoes.  “Why is there a burger in my salad?” There were fits of laughter as the cooks replied “It’s not a burger, it’s a booger.” EWWww!

Sorry, I can’t eat salad with boogers in it.  To compensate they offered me chocolate pudding, chocolate milk, chocolate ice cream and a chocolate donut which they said I could just lick the icing off – they know my weakness.

It was at this point that one of the children introduced a new role and the building inspector showed up.  Personally I think maybe the health inspector was warranted but apparently I hadn’t made enough of a fuss about the food quality.

The building inspector brought his tools and did a thorough inspection before announcing that the restaurant must be closed immediately before the whole building collapsed.  There were so many issues that the only option was going to be to tear it down and build a new one.

The back hoe driver arrived and there was a riot as restaurant staff made a desperate attempt to save their business.  A special meal was quickly prepared for the back hoe driver.  A coupon for a free movie ticket was included as extra incentive and the back hoe driver was convinced to join the other team.

Now out numbered the building inspector conceded defeat but he was definitely not happy about it.

We had a lot of fun.  I was interested to see the children initiate new roles into a familiar game.  However, I was a little disturbed by the corruption, conspiracy and use of bribery to get what they wanted.  So young to have this mastered already.  Makes me wonder what kind of an example we are setting for our children.

Retail Drama

Many, many years ago the playroom was much different than it is today.  I used to have several large plastic toys – all in one themed activity centres manufactured by various toy companies.  Certainly these types of items serve a purpose – many of the ones I had were originally purchased for my own children and they enjoyed using them.

These moulded plastic toys had no sharp edges, were easy to clean, and light enough to be easily moved around – or tipped over.  One of the main problems that I had with these toys was that they were bulky and used up a considerable amount of space.  I couldn’t have them all out at the same time so, like the bins of small toys, I also rotated the large toys available.  Unlike the bins of small toys it was not easy to take one out and replace it with another.  Usually changing the big toys required rearranging the whole room – a task that sometimes took nearly as much time as the creating the built-in play space that I have now.

It was the mixture of bright colors of the plastic toys that bothered me most.  With several large pieces and many bins of small toys the playroom ‘screamed.’  Using wood and natural products to create built in play equipment has allowed me to use more neutral, calmer colors.  Also, much of the space now serves multiple purposes – is open ended – to allow more imaginative play than the themed plastic equipment.

One item that I miss from the ‘old days’ is the storefront.  I’m glad the shocking purple, orange and lime green are gone and the shelves were easy to replace but the cash register was another story.  I have searched catalogues, toy stores, and thrift shops for something that is or could be a cash register.  I’ve found some but they’ve been poorly constructed, too expensive, too large or too small or not appropriate for use by young children.

Now, not having a cash register doesn’t mean the children don’t play games that involve going to the store or shopping but I miss the cash register.  I’ve had a solar powered calculator in the play space which has been popular for many uses including a cash register but it is small.  The children have decided the large base for one of the old cordless phones is a ‘computer’ – it has a small screen and a keypad and has also been used as a cash register.  I rescued an old computer keyboard that my husband was going to throw out, removed the cord and put it in the playroom.  This has become the control panel for a space ship, the emergency command centre and — a cash register.  Now the children have added a ‘scanner’ (wrench with sound effects) to the cash register too – they scan items others choose to buy.

Sometimes even I forget the power of imagination and symbolic play.  No one walks into the playroom and says “Cool, you’ve got a cash register” like they do with the double door refrigerator but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a real working cash register.

The Nature Area

Many years ago I constructed a nature loft in the corner of the playroom to maximize the play space by building a low platform with toy storage below.  In the loft I used a combination of real and imitation nature items to bring the outdoors in and create a unique area for dramatic play. .  The children loved to play here – they had picnics, went camping, and pretended to be animals.  This nature loft was small but that didn’t prevent all the children from gathering there together and it also offered a secluded area where children could go to relax and reflect.

A few years later I relocated the playroom to a different part of the house.  As I planned the renovation I knew that I wanted the new nature loft to be bigger and better than before.  I designed it to have two levels – the upper level had trees, flowers and animals like the previous loft – the lower level was like a cave with an undersea theme.   The children really enjoyed the new spaces but unfortunately I found it very stressful.  To allow for the lower play space the deck was 18 inches high – twice the height of the original loft.  The children often carried toys as they scrambled up and down the stairs and I worried that someone would fall.  This concern for their safety prompted yet another renovation – yes, I do make a lot of changes.

This time I chose to make the loft area a library and I moved the nature area to the small room off the main playroom.  Here there was a large window and much more space than there had been in any of the lofts.  The extra space allowed me to add more items – like the old Christmas tree from our attic (a wonderful suggestion from my husband).  I had originally arranged all the trees and plants around the perimeter of the room but felt this didn’t create the sheltered ‘in the forest’ type of environment that the lofts had offered.  So, this weekend I made some more changes.  Our new nature area looks like this;

I am pleased with the results and today I will find out how the children react to the changes.


I have far more toys than our play space could contain so I rotate the toys in and out of the room regularly.  I generally don’t tell the children about the changes because the ‘Hey, look what I found’ reactions are one of the highlights of my day.

Certainly it is noticeable when I put away the blocks and put the train set in the basket instead or replace the farm animals with some from the jungle.  However, some of the changes are more subtle – the square I found at the hardware store and placed in the tool belt or the empty container from yesterday’s snack that is now on the shelf in the housekeeping area.

More interesting than the children’s initial reaction is the way the new discovery can change an old game.  Such was the case this week when the children found the new book.  Actually, it is not that new – the weekly planner book was donated by one of the parents and has been sitting on the shelf with the cookbooks and photo album for a couple weeks already but no one had noticed it.

When they did, everything changed.  It is amazing how one small item can have such a major impact on the group.  Cooking and serving food is a popular dramatic play activity here and often involves packing lunches and heading off to school/work – an activity they are all familiar with.

With the addition of the new book there was no “I want it first” or “when is it my turn” like there sometimes is when a new ‘one-of-a-kind’ item is added.  Instead, it was as if the entire group of eight children suddenly had the same idea.  With a ten year difference between the oldest and the youngest this is an amazing occurrence.

The book was the resource that connected all the intricate details of their new restaurant.  Some children quickly donned dress-up clothes and phoned to make dining reservations.  Others began planning the menu and cooking meals.

Along the way there were several imaginary incidents – a broken pipe, a kitchen fire.  A quick change restaurant patron was suddenly a plumber or a firefighter.  They even had an organized escape plan to get everyone out of the restaurant safely!

All I did was add a book and sit back to wait and watch.  The best days are the ones when they don’t really need me at all.