Staff Newsletter: ''Making Learning Fun Through Dramatic Play''
By Carolyn Tomlin

While rushing to leave for work, a teacher left behind a special cape she had purchased especially for the role of Superman. When she arrived at school and explained to the five-year-olds what had happened, a freckle-faced youngster pulled a towel from his cubby, tied it under his chin and pretended to fly about the room. You, too, can jump-start dramatic play in the classroom through simple props and a few house rules. Here’s how:


Simple Rules

·         Each child is free to imagine the possibilities without restriction to male or female roles.

·         After using an item, it should be returned to its proper place.

·         Limit the number of children using the dramatic play corner at one time to prevent chaos and fighting.

·         Change items frequently to prevent boredom.


Where to Find Dramatic Play Items

·         Garage and yard sales

·         Annual sales at costume shops

·         Thrift stores, such as Goodwill Industries

·         Parents often have many items to donate to your program


Using Dramatic Play in the Classroom

·        Connect to the curriculum. For example, when teaching a unit on community helpers, fill the dramatic play area with the hats of construction workers, firefighters and police officers. Display pictures of both men and women serving in these jobs and have community personnel visit your class.

·         Extend language learning by acting out a story read at circle time.

·         Put on a play when it’s raining outside.

·         Reward positive behavior by allowing children to spend extra time in the dramatic play corner.


What You Need for Dramatic Play

·         Sunglasses – movie star

·         Feather boa – dancer

·         Pom-poms – cheerleader

·         White shirt or smock and stethoscope – medical personnel

·         Railroad cap and red bandana – train engineer

·         Hats to represent different community workers (policeman, fireman, bus driver, school guard crossing, construction worker, etc.)

·         Road signs – stop, slow, curve, railroad, crossroads, etc.

·         Baskets for grocery shopping, including plastic fruits and vegetables

·         Neckties, purses, and adult shoes, especially medium-height heels

·         Clothing from ethnic groups


Dramatic Play for Children with Special Needs

·         Make adjustments and accommodations when necessary to fit individual situations.

·         Ensure that “all” children in your program view dramatic play as a special, happy time of the day.

·         Help each child feel successful by assisting in role-play.



Carolyn R. Tomlin is a former kindergarten teacher and assistant professor of education at Union University in Jackson, TN. She writes for numerous magazines in the area of early childhood education.



Bruner, J.W. (1960). The process of education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Parten, M.L. (1932). Social participation among pre-school children. Journal of Abnormal Social Psychology, 27, 243:269.

Piaget, J. (1964). Cognitive development in children. Piaget Rediscovered. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.