Preschoolers’ dramatic play serves various purposes in their learning: language building, social-emotional learning, fine motor development, and problem solving skills, to name a few. 

By sharing their imagination in their play world, the children engage with each other in social, co-constructive learning. 

Although the teachers originally planned a “cafe store” provocation based on the children’s previous interest, the children in the afternoon class expressed that they want to make an ice cream store ~ and so an ice cream store emerged! 

J: “Which one do you want?”
M: “That one!”

The children are engaged at different levels of play: some are immediately very comfortable taking on a designated role, like cashier or customer. Some children observe to see what is possible within this play scenario. Often children use inspiration from each other, and/or from their real lives to advance their play.

From their elaborate play in the ice cream store emerged the idea of having an ice cream party – with real ice cream!

B helps prepare for our ice cream party by cutting bananas.
N helps out too by cutting strawberries – another healthy topping! 

By participating in this way, they add to their personal experience from which they can draw more play scenarios. 

Before the party can commence, we inquire as a group: 
Mr. Eric: “What can we do when we wait for our ice cream?”
L: “You have to line up!”
We discuss what happens at a real ice cream store:
Educators ask, “Is ice cream free for anyone to grab at a store?”
The children think and collectively agree, “No, you ask the person working and you have to trade money for ice cream.”
The children decide to use rocks as money.
To further their interest in this play, the educators set up a provocation where they “sell” real ice cream to the children.

R “trades in his rock” for an ice cream cone as Ms. Erin takes his order.
The other children are waiting patiently for their turn.
They too will soon practice their choice making ability:
Cone or cup…strawberries or bananas (or both!)?
Success! The children enjoy their ice cream
and engage in detailed conversation together about how they have chosen their ice cream. 

For days following the ice cream party, the children’s interest in the ice cream store is sustained. They draw from their experiences at the ice cream party in their dramatic play, and continue to have “rocks for ice cream” exchanges.
Play also provides an opportunity for the children to negotiate and practice their social skills in times of conflict…

L: “Five dollars please”
N: “Look! Ice cream – yummy!”

B: “You’re in my way! I need to get to the oven!”
L: “I’m almost done. I’m selling ice cream.”
A: “You can just wait right?”

The play evolves again and peaks another interest…birthday parties! 

S: “It’s a birthday cake. We have to blow out the candle. 
S: “It’s your birthday Mr. Eric!”

In emergent curriculum, educators are continuously observing children at play and taking note of their interests. As in the Ice Cream Store – Ice Cream Party – Birthday Party experiences shared above, educators offer provocations along the way to peak the children’s interest and build on their knowledge of the topic of interest. Play evolves constantly from these interests and the classroom environment is transformed to facilitate this evolution and to fit the children’s growing play world.

Stay tuned for more explorations!

Ms. Erin, Mr. Eric & Ms. Joey
Preschool Room Educators

Ice Cream for Sale!