March 31st & April 7: School closed for
Young children spend a lot of time pretending. They prepare imaginary meals or talk on the phone. They tell tall tales of adventure, become superheroes or fly rocket ships to outer space. They imitate the behavior of adults. Pretending happens in most areas of the classroom, but its dedicated space is in the Dramatic Play area. Here, pretending becomes a group effort, a shared experience and an opportunity for important learning.
Children in the Red Room begin the year with parallel play. Even in the Dramatic Play area, each child plays her own solitary game. Five children may all be feeding babies but they do not become a family until much later in the school year. There are plenty of young cooks but they share their food with teachers or stuffed animals.
In the Blue Room, the children are interacting more. They begin to take on roles, especially those of babies and parents, or even pet lions or tigers. There are props to help move play forward: dishes, pots, blankets, dolls, phones or large pieces of fabric. Travel also becomes a popular theme as children pretend to board a train, a bus or a plane and talk about where they are going. Teachers observe or step in as play themes grow more complex over the course of the school year.
In the Yellow Room, children use large hollow blocks to create a bedroom, a rocket ship, a doctor’s office or a restaurant. Two children tug on the same block and suddenly realize they can carry it together. A teacher suggests a game of doctor hoping to inspire the group to play together. The idea catches on but soon becomes a story about a burning building, a heroic rescue and a healing visit to the original doctor’s office. The children must solve problems as they arise. It is exciting to join together in a common fantasy.
The children in the Purple Room build together, decide on a game, negotiate roles and even take turns without the need for adult intervention. A small group plays a Star Wars game but easily accommodates new children who want to play a family game. Short moments later, the game changes altogether; some children leave and others join. Someone may explain what’s going on but this is not always necessary. Tempers may flare; a pet cat has sat on the captain’s chair causing indignation. Usually the pull of the game is enough to motivate children to compromise and move on. Newcomers catch on quickly or mold the game into something entirely different. Dramatic play can be fluid, complex, funny and exciting.