Dress Up and Dramatic Play

Child outdoors with tool belt

Dress up and dramatic play is one of the most important and common parts of growing up, and a very important part of childhood. Watching young children play is like magic – the smiles, the fun, the laughter the creative ideas. Children from almost any age, any gender, any background and with any interests can remain occupied for hours through dress up and dramatic play. No matter what storyline they are acting out, they are creating meaningful interactions with each other and themselves that help them learn more about the world around them. Which might make you ask the question, how exactly does dressing up and dramatic play benefit learning, and why is it so important? 

Children get to express themselves, learn more about their identity, and become more confident. 

Children get to be themselves in a whole new way and indulge in a world of imagination. Children get to express themselves, learn more about their identity, and become more confident. Research shows that dramatic play is one of the most important forms of learning. It is linked to language development, positive social skills, problem solving skills, and thinking creatively. Dress up and dramatic play helps children imitate the world around them, making them form connections to other people. For example, when children are pretending to talk on the phone, it proves they are translating that they understand this concept and have demonstrated how to use it in their own lives. A great product for this would be My First Phone, which features a magnifying glass and a colourful dial pad encourage interactive play and help develop dexterity and cognitive skills. 

Two young kids playing pretend with phones

Learn Through Play

Learn while having fun! Children learn a variety of skills through dress up and dramatic play, such as: 

  • It helps children be creative. Children will take any kind of costume and make it into their own invention. It could be creating a completely new character or turning a tutu into a cape; whatever it is, it is helping children imagine and create without feeling like a chore. It helps open their minds to new possibilities!  

  • It can last for hours. Dramatic play is a great way to keep kids entertained. It is also extremely versatile as far as age groups go, as kids as young as toddlers up until around the preteen ages can engage in dramatic play.  

  • Independence. Young children learn how to dress themselves, create positive social interactions with friends, and take turns sharing and playing together. This helps children become confident in doing things by themselves, helping them gain independence and a sense of pride in themselves. It helps give them the confidence they need to handle more tasks in their day to day lives by themselves!  

  • Language and motor skills. Through interacting with their peers, using play objects and creating dramatic scenes, children are developing their vocabulary and playing with their hands simultaneously. They are essentially learning about the world around them through new words, new objects, new stories, and putting them all together at once! It’s incredible what their little minds absorb and retain.  

  • Social skills and friendships. These types of play help social interactions in a way that more traditional and structured ways of learning cannot. They help children learn to share toys, ask for favours, and form a sense of community. Sharing items with other classmates is an important lesson when it comes to early childhood development, and there is no shortage of sharing lessons learned when it comes to learning through play.  

Two young girls play pretend with stickers on their face

Teach Dress Up Play

Teachers don’t need to be involved much in dramatic play, as its main purpose is to help children learn real life skills individually and without assistance. However, if you do want to utilize the opportunities when it comes to learning through play, here are some tips to help your students get the most out of their dramatic and dress up play.  

  • Ask questions. Asking the children questions about the roles they are playing, the activities they are doing and what scenario they have created. If they play seems repetitive and simple, encourage them with new ideas and suggestions. 

  • Observe. Watch the children and see what kinds of pretend play they are acting as. Are they imitating people in their personal life? Or characters they see in movies/television shows? Superhero’s? This a great way to learn about their interests and have an idea on what kind of things they are observing themselves, as it reflects in their play.  

  • Don’t overstay your welcome. Students rely on hands on learning and this needs to be facilitated to a degree on their own. Getting overly involved can slow down this process and hinder their creativity. Learn the boundaries when it comes to play, and when to let the imagination take flight by themselves! 

  • Make sure no student gets left behind. Students who may have social anxiety or feel uncomfortable about playing with other students might be hesitant to put themselves out there. If you see a child by themselves, help integrate them by inviting them to play along. Students can be sensitive to new groups of classmates or may be feeling anxious in their abilities. Help assure them they are welcomed and an important part of the group. Sometimes, they just need a little push to help them warm up to their environment! 

  • Allow them to express different gender roles. Dress up and pretend play is often about focusing on children finding a sense of identity, so it is very common for them to play pretend with different roles, both masculine and feminine. They are discovering who they are, so encourage and allow that expression instead of enforcing specific gender roles on them.  

  • Remember, there are no rules in dramatic play. Dramatic and dress up play is a place for kids to interact with each other, their own world and identity, and this may look differently than what you expected or anticipated. Unless they are being harmful or obscene to one another, allow them to play however they would like – even if it doesn’t make sense or follow a specific idea of what you had in mind. Let their imagination run wild! 

Young girl plays dress up with pink crown

Play Area Set-Up

Dress up and dramatic play is an important part of development, as it helps children develop crucial life skills like language, creativity, independence and motor skills. Setting your classroom up for success may seem like a challenge, but with the right storage spaces, the right play area and the right accessories to accentuate dress up and dramatic play, children will have a blast playing amongst their peers and creating new scenarios in no time! 

Some suggestions would be the Rotating Dress Up Storage that features mirrors and compartments to put away their various dress up items and objects. The mirrors are great for dress up play so children can see exactly what kind of character look they have put together! The Multipurpose Storage Combination is another great option that features 20 mobile trays to store all your smaller dramatic and dress up play items. These kinds of storage compartments make it easy for children to grab what they would like to use and remember where they found it, so they can return it when they are finished using it.      

Children need an open play space that enables them to grow and learn. It should be safe, open, and can be organized. Helping children clean up after play is a great way to instill responsibility and ensure they don’t lose their favourite dress up and dramatic play items. So, you now know the benefits and reasons as to why pretend and dramatic play is a key role in early development, but you still aren’t sure how to plan and execute your space into the perfect setting to let little imaginations run wild. Take into consideration the age and interests of your students, the dimensions of your space, and how you plan on organizing your play items. Here are some simple steps to help create your dream play space: 

  • Step 1: Brainstorm what type of dramatic play area you want to have, with the pace you already have. Think of a theme or cohesive layout you anticipate the children using. An example of an ideal play space is a kitchen themed play area. It is a very popular idea for children, as it is versatile and has many different creative scenarios that can be used for dramatic play. Another fun spot for dramatic play could include a laundry centre. Kids love to mimic what they see in the real world and in their personal lives at home!  

  • Step 2: Plan the larger items, such as furniture and seating arrangements. Make sure the space is right for the appropriate age group. If you are teaching to young students such as kindergarten to grade 2, you need to create a space that is accessible to reach and play, filled with items that would peak their interests. Making this space easy for them to use, filled with age-appropriate toys, and setting a scene that allows dramatic play to flourish! 
  • Step 3: Adding small additional items and accessories such as play fooddolls, and kitchen supplies to help make this dramatic play area complete! Think about what kind of items would best fit with the theme of your play area, and how children could incorporate them with their dress up and dramatic play. You can never have too many items to encourage learning through play!  

Dramatic Play Accessories

  • Role Play Set can be a fun way for kids to engage in pretend play. It is creative and a fun way to get children involved in imaginary play. Watch children act out scenes as different titles such as doctor, fireman, scientist, and astronaut. This type of dress up play encourages children to dream big and learn more about their world! 

  • Dress-Up Tutu’s are a great tool for dramatic play. Children often use them in different ways than they are intended for, improving their creative skills and keeping them thinking outside the box. Children love to imitate ballerinas and other various styles of dance, encouraging them to be active!  

  • Action Hats are a go-to for dramatic play, as they are quick, simple and can be used for all kids and all types of play! 

  • Capes are an easy, functionable item to have with dress up play. Children can use capes and turn them into anything, to fit any story or play scenario. Children are fascinated by pretend magicians and magic shows! 

  •  A chef costume is a must-have for kitchen dramatic play! Children love to pretend they are creating their own bakery and restaurant scene, interacting with customers and pretend cooking.  

  • Play food is a perfect addition to dramatic play, especially for a kitchen set up. The fresh picked fruit and veggie tote is also a fun tool, with an assortment of seventeen colourful fruits and vegetables to choose from. Perfect for pretend play cooking and baking! 

  • Dolls are a fun toy for children to play with and are very popular. Children imitate being a parental figure with the doll and participate in things such as pretending to feed the doll, cradle it and change its clothing. It helps teach empathy and responsibility!  

Young child plays pretend with doll

Learning through play is a unique experience for every individual child and student, and each play scenario and storyline are different, which is what makes it so magical. It is so important to give students time to explore these types of play not only as it helps them in so many aspects of their life, but it also helps to create an inclusive community with bright and creative thinkers and provides children with an exciting and fun time in the classroom they get to look forward to. Dress up and dramatic play is one of the best tools for learning because children never get bored, and the opportunities are endless.    

How to Choose the Seat that’s Just Right

This one is too small; this one is too big – so how do you find the seating that’s just right?  

For little ones and grownups alike, uncomfortable seating can be unfortunate, especially when you need to sit for prolonged periods of time. It is important to find that spot that’s just right – the right amount of wiggle room, the perfect height, and the best position for learning. 

So, how do I find the perfect match when it comes to seating

Let’s talk about the basics! 

What seat height is a good match? It depends heavily on the height, weight, and age of the child, but what is equally important is the height of the table. It is also important to keep in mind smaller children like toddlers require less room than older children. We recommend leaving 7-8” of room between the seat height and the table height. We have a chart that is featured below for reference! 

What kind of chair options will work best for me? The ideal look and comfort level are preferences that differ for everyone! Wood chairs and plastic chairs are both great options that feature easy to clean material. Warranty is something to investigate as well, as a 5 to 10-year warranty can provide ease and comfort when your furniture being used by energetic little ones! 

How do I make sure the seat is a comfortable fit? We recommend that the child’s legs can sit comfortably at a 90-degree angle. If stuck between too similar sizes, it is always best to size up to allow for growing room! 

Popular Options: 

Firstly, the Berries by Jonti-Craft are a great option. They are easy to stack, easy to clean and feature chrome or painted legs that look stylish and functionable. They also have tables available to complement each seat height, so they perfectly match. Coming fully assembled, they are an easy, practical, and cute option for childcare centres. These chairs also come in multiple seat height available, from 10”, 12”, 14”, 16” and 18”. Bonus points: Jonti Craft also carries them in seven colours, including navy, red, key lime green, coastal blue, camel, blue and green.  

Jonti- Craft also carries in a wooden highchair version called Charries! These are super convenient for lunch time, featuring BPA- free plastic trays to prevent spilling! they are super easy to clean and made from stain resistant materials. They also come with easy adjustable seat belts, perfect for fast growing little ones!  

Another popular option includes the Value Stack Chair. Simple, durable, and light, featuring fun and bright colours, they are sure to brighten up any room. They are easy to stack and feature protective bottom legs that help prevent sliding and reduce noise, which makes it perfect for larger groups of kids. With five stylish colours to choose from – red, blue, green, cocoa and beige, you are sure to find the right match for your centre! Seat heights are available in 5”, 7”, 9”, 11”, and 13”. 

Finally, we have the classic Classroom Chair. These chairs are very popular and essentially a staple in classrooms everywhere. With different colours but an oh-so recognizable design, these stacking chairs are superior in quality and durability. The chair’s frame and legs are made of heavy gauge steel, and the legs are tapered and have swivel guides with nylon bases to offer protection for the floors. They are also featured in multiple different colours; purple, red, blueberry, forest green, navy, and chocolate, and heights in 10”, 12”, 14”, 16” and 18”. 

Shopping for new chairs is exciting, but we know changing up your centre can be very time consuming and overwhelming at times. We hope this has helped to guide you in the right direction and gave you a better idea of what to look for when shopping for chairs. Stay tuned for more informative tips and blog posts!  

Engaging in STEAM Play with Loose Parts 

As a young kid, learning can be complicated. Whether you are in day care, kindergarten, or even all grown up, learning can be frustrating, especially when you are focused on topics that aren’t interesting or don’t seem relevant to you. Studying can feel like a chore, and forcing kids to focus on learning instead of play can make it hard to keep their interest. That’s what makes play-based STEAM learning so great! 

STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics. It combines all forms of learning into one and creates experiences for students that remind them of the real world and helps give learning a sense of purpose. STEAM connects play and learning and relates it to their own little world, making it easier for students to form connections both inside and outside the classroom. 

So how does STEAM play benefit learning? 

  • Confidence. STEAM projects encourage kids to problem solve, which creates a sense of accomplishment and pride when they succeed. Working through these problems to come to a solution help children feel more confident in their abilities and more independent. 
  • Teamwork. STEAM learning that requires communication with peers can help form relationships and social skills simultaneously. Working through problems and projects together promotes leadership and cooperation!  
  • Creativity. The solution of projects often come from thinking outside the box and can help inspire kids to think of new ideas, and support imagination and original ideas to run wild!      
  • Problem solving. STEAM makes figuring out problems fun and provides kids with a new skill. Teaching young ones about trial and error provides a new set of skills. They learn to keep trying, experimenting, and never giving up!   

So how can you engage little ones in STEAM play and what are “loose parts”? 

STEAM play with loose parts includes any material that can be combined, sorted, moved, taken apart and put back together, and when it comes to loose parts, the possibilities are endless. Loose parts are anything hands-on that can be used to learn while playing, like our rainbow wooden super set. This wooden set can be used to stack, assemble or even play pretend! With bowls, cubes, discs and more, small parts make it simple for imaginations to run wild with lots of creativity and enjoyment simultaneously.  They enhance fine motor skills and can be used for games, exploration and so much more. These small toys can make a huge difference in early development. The simplicity of loose parts can build and create so many things and keep minds engaged for hours, teaching kids that the sky’s the limit. 

STEAM play with loose parts doesn’t have to be elaborate, since it as all about bringing back the basics, and encouraging straightforward and creative playtime. The eco magnetic polydron is a great introduction to STEAM play, as it has many magnetic shapes that can create 2D and 3D shapes. Children learn as they form pieces together and watch them stick, educating them about magnetic force, patterns, and structure. It is a very hands-on tool, and with 72 pieces, the whole group can enjoy together.  

Through creating art, learning about technology, exploring engineering, adding and subtracting parts like mathematics, and examining scientific causes, STEAM play with loose parts can turn play time into learning while keeping kids entertained and invested. STEAM challenges little minds to analyse, design, and examine the world around them, while doing what they love most – playing! 

Classes Are Heading Outside and So Are These Products!

Spring is just around the corner and we are so excited that we just can’t hide it! The arrival of spring means we can finally welcome the beginning of warmer weather and longer days. We have all been searching and brainstorming for new ways to safely teach during the pandemic and this feels like the perfect opportunity to enjoy some time teaching outside. 

Bringing classes outside will be a new adventure for those that haven’t done it before. There are some great benefits to teaching outdoors. If you have heard the saying “fresh air is good for the soul” at one time or another, there is a reason for it. There have been studies done that explain the science behind that age-old saying, from an increase in the ability to concentre to feeling overall happier, fresh air really does us good! Being able to follow social-distancing practices in this Covid-19 world is just one more benefit to taking classes outside.  

Outdoor learning may also bring some hurdles that will need to be overcome, many of which we will learn about as we go. One problem that I anticipate is finding products around your classroom that can withstand the travel to and from, as well as the changes in atmosphere or difference in terrain. If you are lucky enough to be able to repurpose and reimagine products that you already have, that is a great place to start! By taking an item that is already available to you, maybe a Wood Stepping Stump Set, and using it as flexible seating for your class is a perfect example of reimagining a product. 

Educational resources like an Outdoor/Indoor Learning Centre are a wonderful tool to keep in your room. You can load it up with all the supplies you need to bring with you and it comes with a whiteboard, which is ideal for teaching lessons outside. The large wheels and handles make it easy to push over all sorts of terrain. For a miniature version, we have a Magnetic Tabletop Easel that can be used for one-on-one instruction or by individual students.   

While you are teaching, your students will need a place to sit and take notes. One of our favourite products is The Surf! This on-the-go work surface ensures you have a desk for your laptop or notebook wherever you need it. Both a seat and a surface, The Surf lets you work comfortably outdoors. For another option, our green or yellow sturdy plastic clipboards make writing outdoors easier to use while sitting on a durable Tatami Mat

If your class is ready for some free play fun, our Nature to Play line has everything you need – and then some more! There are many different options to choose from, one of our favourites includes the Water Table. Fill the two large basins and unlock endless hours of outdoor sensory explorations. From water and sand to shaving cream and slime, this table’s large work surface encourages messy, collaborative play and social interactions.  

Another popular choice is our Mud Kitchen, where children can inspire their growing imaginations by baking a mud pie or mixing up some leaf soup! Use the Mud Kitchen’s large work surface and sink with a removable plug to incorporate messy materials such as mud, sand, and water into collaborative outdoor play. For more fun, store mud tools, buckets, and Nature to Play Crates on the convenient bottom shelf.  

We hope that this inspires all of our wonderful teachers to take on the challenge of outdoor learning. We would love to hear how you take your classes outside!

Play Promotes a Healthy Mind & Body

Our Canadian winters can be beautiful…but also cold! When the temperatures start to dip below freezing, it can become far too easy to spend all of our time inside. Since the winter weather tends to keep children indoors more often, it is important that we continue to make time to be active and play. When outdoor learning is reduced and we start to miss that fresh air (and that wonderful Vitamin D) it becomes extra important to keep both our bodies and minds active. The winter blues affect people of all ages and that includes our littles! 

A great way to battle the blues is by making sure we keep our bodies moving. Kids learn through play, and as a result they experience many benefits which have proven to improve mental and physical health. In fact, play is so important that the United Nations has recognized it as a specific right for all children!

Encouraging unstructured play is an excellent way to increase physical activity levels in children but we know it can become difficult to keep conjuring up fresh and exciting ideas to keep your class active. Luckily, we have a few tricks up our sleeves to help you out!  

When children engage in dramatic play, whether that be by playing dress-up or serving yummy food in a pretend kitchen, they are learning to create and explore a world that promotes social interaction skills, language development, and teaching conflict resolution.  

  • For a bright and colourful addition to your dramatic play area, New Sprouts has a wide range of items made specifically for active imaginations. 
  • A good set of Baby Dolls to play with can have many rewards for toddlers and children who play with them! They can lead to a better understanding of…themselves! 
  • Putting on a good Puppet Show with your favourite set of puppets is a wonderful way to get those creative juices flowing. 

There are also more calming ways to be active, as mentioned in our Children & Mindfulness blog. Practicing yoga is always a great place to start because of the positive impact it can have on children’s well-being, such as improving the ability to process emotions or boosting self-esteem. 

  • What better way to introduce yoga than with our Body Poetry Yoga Cards. These cards are split into three levels of easy, intermediate, and challenging to meet your children’s needs!
  • Cultivate health and wellness with this Healthy Body, Healthy Minds Activity Set of beautifully illustrated and simply written yoga cards. 

All of these ways of playing provide an outlet for children to practice skills that can help them in one way or another. It may be by teaching them how to properly communicate their feelings or by getting those endorphins boosted through physical activity, but each form of play has a positive impact on those developing brains which will lead to a healthier mind and body in the long run. 

Learning Rocks: Stones That Teach

Education stones are a great way to take learning outside! They’re durable enough to handle different weather conditions and small enough to store easily. Plus, their versatility makes them a great addition to any indoor space, bringing nature indoors without the mess.

Education stones can be used to teach different core concepts in new and fun ways. A hands-on approach invokes sensory learning and turns letters, numbers and even emotions into more tangible things.

Literacy

If a child is struggling to understand how to form letters, they can follow along with the grooves of the Feel-Write Writing Stones. Available in Pre-Writing, Lowercase and Uppercase, the stones have deep divots so children can practice the patterns that form letters, either with their finger or a pencil.

For letter recognition, the Alphabet Pebbles are fantastic. They appeal to children’s natural instincts to explore and are great to use in sand, water and outside. Bury them and have children identify the letters they find or sort and match the upper and lowercase stones. For a group activity lay the stones out and choose a letter. The child that finds the letter first gets to keep it and whoever has the most letters at the end wins!

Once the kids are ready to progress, you can play these games and more with Phonics Pebbles. Designed like the Alphabet Pebbles, this set includes 64 stones that cover 44 phonemes, making them perfect for developing word building and blending skills.

Math

Math has a bad rap for not being fun because it tends to be a little complicated. Simplify things with fun matching games using the Number Pebbles (also available in Jumbo). Children can mix and match while sitting in the grass, or they can dig around in their sandbox for the different numbers.

Turn counting into a scavenger hunt by hiding different stones around the yard. The Ladybug Counting Stones are great for this because kids can count the dots on their back while counting how many ladybugs they’ve collected. Plus, they’re numbered, so you’ll notice if you’re missing one at the end of the game and they’ll stand out against the other rocks in your yard.

To practice sum building, pick a number pebble and ask children to combine the other numbers to equal your number. If you’d like to incorporate operations, use the Sum-Building Set, which includes the plus, minus, multiplication, division and equals sign, so you can build math problems right on the lawn!

Social and Emotional Learning

Emotions are tough to talk about, especially for little ones. Emotion Stones provide ways for children to articulate their feelings with physical objects. If they don’t want to talk about their emotions, they can choose the stone that represents their current feelings. The weight of the stones can represent the weight of their feelings, turning an intangible concept into a real thing. Ask the child, “How big are your feelings?” And they can make a pile of the stones, as big or as little as they want, to represent the amount of their feelings, with the main emotion on top. Are they one-stone sad? Three-stones sad? A pile of stones sad?

Stones can also help children cope with their emotions, not just express them. Self-Regulation Stones represent more complex emotions and encourage children to ask why they’re feeling that way and how they can make things better. The images are more abstract, so they can mean whatever the child needs them to mean.

Learning with stones can be lots of fun, with so many ways you can incorporate them into your lessons. While most of these examples are for outside, they can easily be adapted for indoors with a sand table or sensory bin. Stones were the first tools our ancestors learned to use, and now they’re a great addition to your space so you can rock the playground.