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10 Incredible Set Ups for Dramatic Play

photos via Frugal Family Fun Blog, TinkerLab, and No Time for Flashcards.


Earlier this month one of my favorite sites, ohdeedoh, was kind enough to highlight my DIY Veggie Garden Sensory Box.  As always, it was a thrill to be featured but the comments were also somewhat eye-opening.  One reader wrote, “Maybe I’m missing something, but this seems really odd and pointless… if you want to excite kids about caring for a garden, why not get a houseplant and teach them how to care for it?”.


By the time I read the comment a few other readers had already come to my defense.  The first wrote, “…it’s all about dramatic play. The process of caring for a real plant is very valuable, and it’s a great learning activity to do together.  This little ‘pretend’ garden comes with a completely different theory and purpose. It’s a great way to incorporate some imagination and child-led sensory exploration.” Another said, “It seems like it would be fun for imaginary play… waiting for a real plant to spring from the ground might take more patience than many young children would have, but this way the plants can pop up right away. It’s sort of like asking, why get your kid a doll house when they could just be vacuuming your real house?” (That last part especially made me smile.)


What surprised me about this exchange was that the first commenter seemed to totally miss the value of dramatic play for young children.  Once I really thought about it, though, I realized that while I knew dramatic play was important (after all I’ve seen dramatic play set ups in every quality preschool I’ve visited) I didn’t really know why – or how we as parents should be involved.


So I went to my favorite go-to child development blog Not Just Cute to do some research.  Sure enough, I found just what I was looking for.  Amanda discusses not only the benefits of dramatic play but also our role as adults.  One of the things she covers is how to set up dramatic play opportunities using staging and props (like my sensory veggie garden).


Why am I rambling on about all of this now?  Two reasons – first, I want you to check out Amanda’s wonderful article.  Second, I’ve gathered up 10 incredible DIY dramatic play set ups for you to try out at home.  Click through for the ideas!


First up on the list is this cheerful Flower Mart from Frugal Family Fun Blog.  Those colorful daisies would make a great addition to any playroom and the gingham curtains are an especially sweet touch.



Post-birthday let down led Anna of The Imagination Tree to set up this semi-permanent birthday play space for her little ones.  The area incorporates all sorts of birthday fun from making cards and baking cake to wearing party hats.  Be sure to check out Anna’s full post,  she’s a teacher by trade and really goes the extra mile in her detailed explanation of the skills being developed through this activity.



Is there anything more exciting to young child than an extra large cardboard box?  When Rachelle of TinkerLab recently found herself in possession of such a treasure she challenged her facebook fans to help her decide what to do with it.  In the end though she came up with her own idea which (in my humble opinion) was pretty brilliant – a food truck!


I love it because kids get to play at multiple activities – cooking, selling and even driving.  Rachelle also has a few great book recommendations to go along with this activity so be sure to check out her post.



Amy of Let’s Explore recently wrote a great post for Simple Kids on creative play props and ideas.  In it she provides plans for not one but three awesome play scenarios – a pet store, a travel agency and weather forcaster.  The pet store is my personal favorite, how cute are those pet food props?



This pretend Ice Cream shop at Life Is a Party was created to be used at a birthday party and the details are uber cool.  You definitely need to check out the full post to truly appreciate everything that went into this set up.  Here’s a small teaser – see that ice cream?  It’s made from dyed cotton balls, genius!



This play dressing table at Childhood 101 is so pretty it’s hard to believe it came from a simple cardboard box.  It was made as part of TinkerLab‘s cardboard box challenge that I posted on last week and I think it would provide any little girl with hours of fun.



This pretend play airport scenario at No Time for Flashcards is one of my favorites.  Although not as permanent as some of the other set ups, I love how it requires a little more creativity.  There isn’t much that gets me more excited than the site of my little guy using his imagination to turn everyday objects into all sorts of exciting new things.



This round up started with a set up from Frugal Family Fun Blog bringing outdoor things (flowers) inside and it’s ending with another of their set ups, this time bringing indoor things (cooking) outside.  This Outdoor Mud Pie Kitchen looks equal parts messy and fun.  Which, of course, is right up my alley.


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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Crystal & Co May 25, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Love this. I am a big fan of imaginary play!

So glad I found your site over the weekend, by the way! I’m your newest subscriber!


Amy@Let's Explore May 25, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Thanks for including me in this great collection of pretend play set-ups. I love pretend play! :)

That ice cream shop with the dyed cotton balls is awesome!


Anna @ The Imagination Tree May 25, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Oh what SAD responses those people left! I’m sure that people who don’t see the powerful importance of imaginary play were not given creative play experiences as children themselves. Imaginative role-play is vital for development of vocabulary, story-telling skills, empathy, interaction, tun taking, and can incorporate lot of practical mathematical problem solving skills…to name but a few!
Thanks so much for including my birthday role play. This is still going strong and I need to keep adding new elements every so often to keep it fresh. My eldest is just getting into role play in a big way, so no doubt there will be many more play-spaces being built soon!


Allie - No Time For Flash Cards May 26, 2011 at 12:03 am

Can I just tell you I have cried over comments about my blog on other blogs.

Thank you so much for featuring our air travel play, which we have been playing again ( although in bigger PJs) since we have a plane trip coming up. It’s been awesome to prep him and give him some control .

I love your blog and am so happy others have the same mission!


Christie - Childhood 101 May 26, 2011 at 12:34 am

You know how much I <3 imaginative, dramatic play of this kind! Thank you for including our dressing table in your round up =)


Dannyelle May 27, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Thank you so much for including my ice cream store as part of your post. It was so much fun for the kids. I love all the other ideas too, I’ll have to try some this summer.
Dannyelle @ http://www.lifeisaparty.ca


Mama Pea Pod May 27, 2011 at 10:07 pm

What a great round-up, thanks for doing this legwork and sharing with the rest of us!


Nicole Manier May 28, 2011 at 3:08 am

Can I just tell you that when I saw the veggie sensory box my 3 year old happened to be at school and I scooped up my 8 month old and we went right to Target to collect everything to make one. My little boy was so excited when he saw it so THANK YOU for posting all these wonderful imaginary play ideas!


Steph at ModernParentsMessyKids.com May 28, 2011 at 3:37 am

Thank you so, so much for your kind comments everyone – they’ve made my week!

Nicole, that is SO great to hear. I really appreciate your support and I’m so happy you’re trying out the projects. Believe me – I have a 10 month old and a 2 1/2 year old and I know “scooping” them up to get stuff done isn’t easy!


Heather @ Creative Family Moments May 29, 2011 at 1:43 am

AMEN! I’ve had to defend my ‘silliness’ plenty of times! Dramatic play makes such a difference in giving children the opportunity to be creative and develop out-of-the box thinking skills!


Gwynn Torres October 19, 2013 at 12:04 am

We’ve always encouraged pretend play and role play with our children. In our home movies with storylines, in puppet shows and simply in spontaneous make believe. And that’s basically become the focus of our toy store, The Creativity Institute. To further those goals, we’ve written a number of original puppet show scripts that can be performed with puppets or simply with children acting out the parts themselves.

The Creativity Institute


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