I grew up playing in castles, sailing in boats, swimming under the ocean, and setting up tea parties in the middle of magical forests. The act of pretending and using my imagination was second nature to me. My mom instilled the magic of pretend play from as early as I can remember. She fostered it in simple ways like saving empty boxes so that I could transform them into an airplane, and buying costumes from Goodwill so that I could change into a mermaid at a moment’s notice.
Whether my mom knew it or not, fostering imagination and embracing the act of dramatic play was one of the best things she could have done for me. Today, it is something I hope I am succeeding at with my own toddler. I love nothing more than watching my three year old’s creativity explode as he breaks through the walls of reality and gets lost in a world of play and learning.
Benefits of Dramatic Play
In today’s blog post, I’m sharing a dramatic play center that I’ve created for our home, in hopes that it gives you ideas for your own child or young students. As a first grade teacher, I’ve shared the importance of play and creativity in our young students. (You can find a valuable blog post about play-based learning and creativity here and a blog post about games for critical thinking here.) As a teacher and a mother of a toddler, I think it’s equally important to share ways we can foster pretend-play and imagination in our preschool and kinder students. A child who participates in dramatic play learns:
- social and emotional skills
- cooperation and responsibility
- expressive language
- increased vocabulary
- critical and cognitive thinking skills
- math and literacy skills
- …and so.much.more!
Throughout this post, you’ll find some Target and Amazon affiliate links. I receive a small amount of compensation if you happen to purchase something from those links – at no extra cost to you. These links help me keep my tiny corner of the Internet running so that I can continue to share ideas, freebies, and resources with you.
Our Dramatic Play Cart
When I saw this adorable Kids’ Market Cart from Target’s Hearth and Home Magnolia line, my teacher-mama, modern-farmhouse heart almost exploded! I had been looking for something that I could use specifically for a dramatic play cart, and one that would be easy to change from season to season. Since most of Sawyer’s toys will soon be in the finished basement, I wanted a piece that could remain upstairs and still blend in with our decor. The simple black and white farmhouse feel to this cart looks like it was made for our sun room. It’s sturdy, easy to assemble, and the details are beautiful. Quite frankly, I’m in love with it! (You can find it at Target by clicking here or on the picture below.)
After we had the cart assembled, my mind started spinning with what type of dramatic play center I could create first for Sawyer. Since it’s July, I settled on a classic lemonade stand. It’s adorable, brought lots of sunshine and color into my upstairs living area, and Sawyer is simply in pretend-play heaven! Let’s take a closer look!
The finishing touches on this play cart are stunning! From the painted, working wheels to the little metal bell on the edge of the cart, it’s perfection! Sawyer loves to ring the bell and yell, “Order up!”
As you can see from the photograph below, the play cart comes with a working chalkboard on the front. This is going to allow me to easily change the dramatic play center from season to season.
Creating the Lemonade Cart
I could have easily written on the chalkboard, but we decided to use our Silhouette Cameo 3 and make Sawyer’s lemonade sign with vinyl. In the photograph below, you can see that the vinyl went on easily and will peel off easily when we’re ready to change the sign. For reference, we used Krista Wallden’s Lemonade Buds clip art for the sign and A Perfect Blend’s PB Dunn Obsessed Font for the wording.
After we added the lemonade sign and officially had our first theme, it was time to start adding simple accessories and fun pretend play toys! I love that the back of the Hearth and Home cart has plenty of storage for the dramatic play toys. I’ll link everything I added at the end of this post! Sawyer’s favorite accessory was a simple coin can that he adds imaginary money to every time I buy a cup of lemonade!
Another big hit for this lemonade cart is the plastic beverage dispenser, the juicer, and the fake lemon slices. While we played, Sawyer worked on his counting skills as I ordered my cup of lemonade. I told him how many lemons I wanted in it, how many scoops of sugar, and how many lemon slices. We practiced counting and vocabulary words such as juicy, bitter, sour, sweet, sugary, refreshing, delicious, refill, and fresh were being constantly used during play.
Sawyer LOVES his lemonade cart! I could sit and listen to his imagination run wild with scenarios of lost lemons, running out of sugar, and long lines of customers! Here he is, counting his pretend dollar bills after a hard day of work:
We have a happy little three year old who is enjoying every minute of his dramatic play cart!
Shop and Recreate The Lemonade Cart
The photograph below shows the materials, including the Target Hearth and Home Play Cart, that I used for Sawyer’s lemonade stand. You’ll also find a list of links for each item pictured below, should you want to recreate our dramatic play cart for summertime:
- Hearth and Home by Magnolia Kids’ Market Cart – Find it at Target by clicking HERE.
- Artificial Lemon Slices
- Melissa and Doug Play Money
- Basket of 12 Artificial Lemons
- Wooden Crates
- Pink Paper Cups
- Yellow Juicer
- Yellow Paper Straws
- Plastic Beverage Dispenser
I hope you loved taking a look at our new play cart! I also hope it gave you ideas for setting up your own lemonade stand for toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergartners! Be sure to follow me on Instagram @missdecarbo to find out what our fall dramatic play theme will be! You can also pin the picture below if you wish to share this post with a friend or colleague, or refer to it later. Keep playing and keep learning! -Christina