Tag Archives: dramatic play

By Design

Many, many years ago I had a large plastic kitchen in the housekeeping area;

15-08-design01My biggest issues with this kitchen were that it was bulky, a horrid colour and it was unstable. It was so easily pushed/pulled over by small children leaning on it or trying to open the doors that I always had to have it strapped to a nearby wall or heavy object.  The thing that amused me was that the children often used the microwave as a washer – stuffing dress-up clothes inside the teeny tiny space to clean them.

In 2009 I replaced the plastic kitchen unit with wooden appliances built into the housekeeping area.

15-08-design02a (2)Along with the fridge and stove I also included a stacking washer/dryer and the dress-up clothes were conveniently located nearby;

15-08-design02I had designed this washer/dryer unit because the children had previously shown interest in doing laundry during their dramatic play activities.  They did use the new washer occasionally to wash clothes but the dryer was rarely used to dry clothing unless I suggested it.  Maybe it was because the children were not familiar with seeing a dryer stacked on top of a washer but from the day it was first introduced the children used this ‘dryer’ as a microwave oven.

When the playroom was rearranged a couple years later I created a separate dress-up area and moved the washer/dryer away from the kitchen area and placed it in the new space.  The children diligently continued to bring their food from the kitchen all the way to the ‘microwave’ in the far corner of the play room.

15-08-design03During my most recent playroom renovation I was unable to find a good location to put the washer/dryer unit.  I wasn’t concerned about eliminating it since the children rarely used it.  However, I did disassemble it and reuse some of its pieces.  The ‘dryer’ door was added to a shelf in the housekeeping area to create a new ‘microwave’.

15-08-design04The children were thrilled.  For weeks now they have been using this new ‘microwave’.  Occasionally they cook food in it but mostly they think it makes a great garage for parking the cars which they bring here from way over from the far side of the room.

15-08-design05Maybe I should design a garage – I’m curious to see what that could become 🙂

Hanging Clothes

Over the years I have tried various methods to store the dress-up clothes in the playroom.  Bins seem to be the easiest for the children to use to put the clothes away but they have other issues.  Bins take up a lot of space – something we don’t have a lot of.  Smaller children have difficulty reaching to the bottom of the bin and it is often difficult to see/find the item you want when all the clothes are jumbled together in a bin.

I have occasionally used hooks to hang the blankets and dress-up clothes but found plastic hooks often break and metal ones sometime get caught on the fabric and tear the clothes.  I also have some safety concerns about using hooks especially around infants and toddlers.

So, most often I have used hangers to store the dress up clothes;

15-02-hangers01All the children can easily see the selection and pull it off the hanger.  However, putting the clothes back on the hangers was a frustrating – sometimes impossible – task for the little ones.  The hangers were a favourite toy for many of the children who used them for everything except hanging clothes;

15-02-hangers02

Which of course meant the dress-up clothes were always left strewn on the floor.  Then the older children and/or I would be tasked with hanging everything up over and over again resulting in a lot of grumbling.

Recently I bought a new hanger from Ikea and it has been working very well.

15-02-hangers03

There are no sharp pointy parts.  The hoops are accessible for children of all ages/sizes. The items are displayed to it is easy to find the one you want.  Even if all the clothes get taken out it does not take long to put them all away again.  The only problem we sometimes have is that the children tend to use the top hoops first thereby covering the lower hoops and making it more difficult to hang clothes on them.

Overall everyone is quite pleased with this new clothes hanger.  There are far fewer complaints about hanging up the dress-up clothes now.  In fact, many of the children use this new hanger for everything.

15-02-hangers04

Since puppets and stuffed animals so often get hung up here too I’ve now got another hanger – I just have to find a good location to put it.

Ponies!

I was doing some Christmas shopping at Costco when I saw them – ponies!  Actually, the label says ‘rocking horse’ but I like to call them ponies – I bought two.  They were not on my shopping list but I couldn’t resist – they were only $20 each!

Now I will admit they ticked a few boxes on my ‘I don’t like’ list.

  • They were fairly large toys and I have a limited amount of space.
  • They have batteries and make noise.  I prefer ‘use your imagination’ toys over ’cause and effect’ toys.
  • They have some limitation for age/size of children which may cause frustration for the children and me.

But they were so cute I just couldn’t resist.  I bought two because one would definitely not be enough but I don’t have space for a whole herd. Look at them, pictured here with some of my Ikea stuffies;

15-01-ponies01

I debated about introducing the new toys during the Christmas break when there were fewer children here but I decided to wait until everyone returned.  That way all the children could make discoveries together instead of the returning children being ‘instructed’ by the ones who had already had two weeks with the new toys.  Besides, there was something I had to do to the ponies first…

I had to put stops on them so they wouldn’t rock.

I know, some of you are thinking ‘Why do you want rocking horses that don’t rock?’  The answer to that is fairly simple, hence the name change – I wanted ‘ponies’ not ‘rocking horses’.  After my ‘Ooooh, they’re so cute!’ reaction my next thought was how many little toes would be squished under the moving base.

So on Monday the children got to meet our new, non-rocking ponies.  The early arrivals were thrilled.  After nearly an hour of pony play they still hadn’t yet discovered the sound/action buttons – so I showed them.  When you squeeze the pony’s ear you hear neighs and galloping hooves and the pony’s mouth opens and closes and his tail wags.

The children each tried the button once and then went back to their original – before my interruption – quiet pony play.  The third child to arrive was also more interested in the ponies than the pony noise/action.  It was a different story once children four and five arrived.  These two refuse to allow the ponies to be silent – ever!

Even when they are not playing with the ponies, if the noise stops they drop whatever they are playing with and run over to press the button again. For me, this is the biggest problem with the battery operated aspect of these and other similar toys. They don’t enhance the play value of the toy – they prevent the children from fully engaging in play.  They are a distraction.

I usually remove the batteries from new toys before I introduce them to the play space.  The lack of batteries isn’t missed if they didn’t know it existed.  Occasionally I leave batteries in toys – like I did with the ponies.  However, I rarely replace them when they die.  The pony noises are definitely not a benefit but I do like the pony actions.  In fact, feeding the ponies is one of the children’s favourite activities;

15-01-ponies02

Sure, the children could pretend to feed the ponies even if the pony’s mouth didn’t open and close but there is an incredible amount of cooperation and problem solving as the children work together to find items that fit in the pony’s mouth and stay there as he ‘chews’.

The saddle stirrups have caused some problems – rider’s feet sometimes get stuck in them making a safe dismount difficult.  I’ve tucked the stirrups up under the saddle but I’ll probably end up cutting them off completely.

The other issue we’ve had with the ponies comes after daycare closes and it is dark and quiet in the playroom.  That is when hunter cat stalks her prey – and ponies are one of her favourites.  So, when play is done for the day the ponies are safely stabled like this;

15-01-ponies03

Everybody loves ponies.

Nature Area Mini Scenes

The major portion of our most recent playroom renovation took place back in April – read about it here.

There were some smaller projects – both indoors and out – that I planned to work on as time permitted throughout the spring and summer. One of these was the mini-scenes in the nature area. They were originally built back in November of 2011 (wow, doesn’t seem like it was that long ago).

Last year I wrote a post about how the children were using – or rather NOT using – the mini scenes. That post is here.

The original mini scenes were created using scrap lumber and was attached directly to the wall. The decorations also were attached to or painted on the wall and shelves. This made it difficult for me to modify or repair them when necessary.

Last winter we decided we needed to put a heater in the nature area because it does get cold in there. In order to put the heater under the window we would have to move the shelves – perfect time to rebuild them.

This time I planned to build free standing shelf units that, although they are attached to the wall for stability, can be moved. The decorations are now attached to panels that fit in the shelves. This way we can change the mini scenes panels later without taking the whole unit apart.

The new scenes are slightly larger than the old ones and the heater separates the ‘indoor’ house section from the ‘outdoor’ scenes. It is impossible to get all of the nature area in one photo but this is an overhead view of the new nature area – it shows the shelves and the floor space but not any of the trees;

14-08-NS00

The ‘bridge over the river’ is also the stool the toddlers use to look out the window. My daughter sewed the felt logs and fire for me – I don’t like sewing but that is another post.

These are closer shots of the shelves – ‘The Forest’, ‘The Meadow/Garden’, and ‘The Beach’;

14-08-NS04

‘The 2nd Forest’ (would be the jungle if I had other decorations), the ‘Winter’ scene, and the ‘Underwater’ scene;

14-08-NS05

The house scenes are still a work in progress. I started decorating but there is some more furniture I want to make and I want to add a bathroom too – bathrooms are the children’s favorite rooms;

14-08-NS06

I will be adding some windows and other decorations – winter projects. I considered cutting a whole in the back of the kitchen shelf because the ‘real’ window is directly behind this shelf so there could be a ‘real’ view from the dollhouse kitchen window. My husband muttered some comment about a ‘sickness’ that he thinks I have…I’ll just paint the kitchen window like I was planning to do in the other rooms.

The new scenes have been very popular. When we are inside there are always children playing here. There are many different toys the children can use here but they particularly like the dolls I recently purchased from Quality Classrooms;

14-08-NS07

It has been difficult to take pictures of the children playing here because it is a small space for the six or seven children that like to congregate here. I’ll keep trying. I’ll also post some more pictures when I have added more decorations and furniture. As usual it will never be ‘finished’ but it will continue to evolve like all our other spaces.

Creative Summertime Freeplay

This has been a quiet summer.  Quiet meaning the children have needed very little direction from me.  This year’s group is very independent which has left me plenty of time for observation.

Indoors the trains have been neatly organized in the tubes instead of the block bin with the train tracks.  It was not my idea but I like it 🙂

0-parking

That is the only indoor picture that I have because we’ve been playing outside most of the time.

All the loose parts have provided endless opportunities for creativity and symbolic play.  These ‘eggs’ are neatly arranged by size;

1-eggs

Of course there were many picnics and restaurants;

2-picnic

The little tree cookies were used to create paths between and around the larger stumps;

3-steps

There was an ice cream shop with a wide variety of menu choices;

4-icecream shop

A grand pony expedition – I love that these children can use action figures creatively without following a movie script;

5-ponies

There was also an elaborate dramatic play activity involving the whole group.  The main characters were ‘sabre tooth grizzly birds’ and since I had trouble envisioning what they would look like I asked for a picture of one;

6-STGBird

This picture was made possible thanks to an accessible outdoor art area.

I also asked them to make a list of art items they’d like to have available.  There is plenty of paper so I was a little surprised by the size of the list they made;

7-list

Even our outdoor snack time has been a creative activity;

8-ODsnack

And finally, this little pine cone family has been waiting patiently all weekend.

10-pinecones

I wonder what they will be doing when the children return…

Fluffy Rain

One of my fellow family childcare committee members coined the term ‘fluffy rain’ in reference to the white stuff falling from the sky during our meeting last Thursday.  Maybe it was positive thinking or maybe it was just denial – none of us wanted to believe that it was snowing again at the end of April.

There was no school on Friday and although not all the children were here we still had a larger than normal group.  The ‘fluffy rain’ did not dampen anyone’s mood – outdoor play in any type of weather is still preferred over being stuck in a classroom all day.

Most of the morning there was an elaborate dramatic play activity involving an eccentric designer, an art exhibit, and various other characters.  I was assigned the role of ‘photographer’ to document the event – perfect because I was taking pictures already.

There was artwork everywhere;

FR01

FR02

FR03

FR04

Then someone discovered the steady stream of water running out of the rain barrel overflow spout;

FR05

Eventually we had to go back inside because it was too cold for soaking wet toddlers (my decision, not theirs).  Before that though we still had some more time to play with wet fluffy rain – on the plexiglass;

FR06

One toddler was super excited to discover ‘flowers’;

FR07

Hmmm, those ones might be remnants from last summer.  However, the pasture sage has been eager to get growing this year.  It has been active for a couple weeks already.

FR08

Hopefully it won’t be deterred by a little fluffy rain – after all, it is a hardy native prairie plant.  It, like the rest of us Manitoba prairie dwellers, should be used to this by now.

Rockets

For many years there had been rockets in the playroom.  I don’t think I have ever had an actual toy rocket but the children have built rockets to play with.  Their preferred rocket building materials don’t come from the block bin.  They use items from the housekeeping area.

There hasn’t been any ‘rocket’ play for the past year so I looked for an old picture of the children engaged in this activity.  I have nearly 4500 childcare photos on my computer so this proved to be a time consuming task.  The only one I could find before I gave up was this one;

rocket01Sorry, it is not a very good quality photo – to get it I cropped a small section of a larger photo.  I don’t actually think they are using it as a rocket in this photo, it seems to be a shaker of something that they are adding to a recipe.  However, they do have the cups placed on the bottle that I wanted to show you.  Here is a picture I just took of the ‘supplies’.

rocket02

I don’t remember which child originally discovered that those cups fit perfectly on those bottles – it was so very long ago.  It has been an ongoing activity passed on through several groups of children over the years.  There has always been one problem and you might be able to guess it if you look at the above photo (hint: how many cups vs how many bottles).

If only one child was playing then all three cups would be put on one bottle – like the shaker in the first photo.  If two (or more) children wanted to play and have ‘rocket races’ then this would happen;

rocket03

Seriously, they would never agree to only use one cup on each bottle and put the third cup away.   There was always one rocket that was bigger, and more powerful, that the other.  Some days I dreaded the rocket races.

The rocket play has fizzled out over the last year.  The older children have not passed the game on to the young group I currently have.  Yet, earlier this week the baby of the group did something that was very, very interesting.  Take a look;

rocket04

I didn’t manage to get them all in the photo but there are three of those milk jugs.  Three jugs, three cups, three rockets that have yet to lift off.  Impressive.  The others haven’t noticed yet, but there are four toddlers….