A Reimagining of "Home Corner"
When I first started in early education and care back in the early 2000's, dramatic play was a home corner. Most of the time it was set up with an oven, a sink, a table, maybe a dolls bed and a rack or basket of dress-ups. Sometimes it was transformed into a doctors surgery, or a shop, or a vets. To be honest, when I think back to my own time at preschool in the late 80's, it was the same then too.
There's nothing inherently wrong with "home corner" or with creating any type of dramatic play space. But what if there was a different way to do it? What if there was a way to spark dramatic play without being prescriptive? What if we could let children create the space and create the play? What if there was a way for multiple types of role play to take place at one time?
There is. It's deconstructed role play!
What is Deconstructed Role Play?
When I was first introduced to this concept by Allistair Bryce-Clegg it made instant sense to me. As a lover of loose parts play, I was all for children taking open-ended materials and bits and pieces and constructing and creating what they needed for their play. But it was typically happening outdoors or in small world play. The idea that we could use loose parts and props to spark dramatic play was an exciting one.
Essentially the idea is that instead of setting up a specific home corner or dramatic play space (e.g. a doctors surgery or florist) we provide a space with open ended materials and a variety of props and children can choose how to play in that space. Makes sense right?
How do you do it?
This is the best part - it doesn't take you hours to create the perfect hair salon, because you might just have a basket of hair salon supplies available on a shelf.
I would recommend having a large space available with some basic furniture that can be used in multiple ways e.g. table, small shelf, bed
Then - boxes. Cardboard boxes of various sizes lend themselves to being an astronauts helmet or a dog carrier or a boat, or whatever children want them to be.
Add open ended materials - quiet literally. Fabric of different colours, textures and sizes can be used as a table cloth, a sheet, a pet blanket, a cape or whatever children want them to be. I love to include pegs with the fabric too.
Next, have some baskets of props or additions available. It's not about just having a basket of doctors supplies, or pretend food. It's having options that is important. That way, if Katie and George want to play restaurants and Violet, Harry and Arjun want to play pet shops - the two can co-exist happily (and sometimes even intertwine)
Image via Pinterest (original source unknown)
What are the benefits?
- Educators don't spend countless hours setting up and rotating dramatic play spaces (I have even heard of educators spending their weekends making pretend flowers for a flower shop experience!)
- Children have the power to choose and lead their play
- Children can play what they want to play, when they want to play, not what has been selected as an interest (hey, it might be an interest, but not for every child)
- Children can be creative
- Open ended materials are typically easy to source and cost effective
So, I encourage you - reimagine role play, reimagine the home corner. Sure, it won't always look pretty... in fact sometimes it might look like a bit of a mess. But children's authentic play isn't pretty.