Learning about community helpers and engaging in dramatic play supports every part of a child’s development in the early years. These types of interests provide wonderful opportunities for children to learn about the community around them, develop communication, creativity, problem solving, and social skills.
The following is a list of play extension ideas might also help you find ways to expand on the children’s knowledge and experience! You will also find materials, as well as room setup and other considerations, at the bottom of the page.
- Explore which community helpers need science to do their job – for example: doctors, nurses, pharmacists, paramedics, bakers
- Talk about what they need to learn to do their jobs
- Measuring and pouring is important for bakers – provide scales, measuring cups, spoons etc. Talk about and show what happens when you add too much water or flour, and what temperature to cook things at.
- Construction community helpers can use magnets for tools, screws, straw, wood or bricks. Try building a house out of straw, and another with sticks or stones and then talk about which one is strongest, and what happens if a big wind comes.
- What do farmers need to do their job? Discuss what happens when you plant seeds, show children how the roots begin to emerge and what happens if they do not get enough water and sunshine.
- Talk to children about different transportation helpers around the world. What do we need to make a bus run? What about a rickshaw?
- Research what other jobs would include science
- Talk about the different kinds of words and tools the helpers would use in the jobs (for example, stethoscope, car, books, uniforms etc.)
- Who would they need to help them do their jobs? For example a grocery store clerk would get the food from the delivery driver, who gets the food from the warehouse, and they get the food from the farm.
- Talk about the skills people need to do their jobs.
- Have visitors speak about their jobs (use CNC as an example)
- Create matching game where the children match the person to the tools of their trade.
- Talk about settlement workers and people who help them learn about living in Canada. Who are the helpers supporting them in their settlement?
- Have the children create signs for the areas (for example, stop signs, bus signs, steering wheel, lines of seats, bus/transfer tickets etc. for bus drivers)
- Use community helper puzzles and ensure that they display gender equity and diversity.
Culture and diversity
- Ask parents who were community helpers in their home country.
- Show representations of different genders and cultures taking on these community helpers’ roles
- Find pictures and books of what police officers look like from different countries. What do their uniforms look like and what type of vehicles do they drive? What sound does their vehicle make? (fire trucks etc.) Ask families to bring in foods they eat at home (or just the boxes/bags) to include in your grocery store or restaurant.
- Talk about how jobs might be done differently in different countries
- Ask families to bring in foods they eat at home (or just the boxes/bags) to include in your grocery store or restaurant.
- Introduce new types of foods from other countries and/or religious beliefs around food.
- Work with parents who have expertise in community helper professions
- Ask parents who they are working with in the community
- Have family members that live in other countries zoom into the class to talk to the children and show them where they live.
- Find out who is an important community helper in the families’ communities
- Have real pictures of the stores and community helps in the area the families live.
- Talk about or introduce some of the community helpers they are likely to meet, police officer, firefighter, nurse, doctor, paramedic, teacher, crossing guard, librarian, community centre worker, zookeeper, gardner, store clerk, cook, restaurant server, delivery driver, bus drivers etc.
- The pandemic has changed the way we think of community helpers, so think about the workers that became essential to keeping our communities going during this pandemic
- Explore what each of the helpers’ job includes, making sure that representations show that men and women can take on the roles and as well people from many different cultural backgrounds.
- Pay attention to the different kinds of community helpers the children are talking about. It might be the men who moved them to a new house, or the people who came to fix things in their home. Ask the parents about who the children are interacting with.
- Create areas such as vets office, gas station, doctor’s office, dentist office, classroom, grocery store, library, and hair salon. Include materials that would be used in these places – think about the equipment, uniforms, paperwork and tools that would be used.
- Set up a library with books and newspapers representing various languages and cultures, set up chairs and make library cares. Stamp the cards when items are borrowed and returned. Visit or have parents take children to the library.
- Set up different stores from various cultures, add baskets, cash registers and boxes with different languages on them. The children can make money, visit the doctor or hospital have a school, baby stroller. Ask questions about money price, label items in the stores. Display items to sell and have a delivery service. Create a delivery truck wrap and package items for delivery. make name tags to deliver to the children’s home or parents’ classrooms.
- Set up a coffee shop like Tim Hortons where you have paper cups, food items, coffee from different cultures. You can set up a drive-through, create a microphone to order, make money, create a board with items for sale and the price, set up tables and chairs for eating etc.
- Build on the adult programming – what are the children’s parents learning about? Prepare ahead of time to visit places like a farm, the zoo, trips or special guests – you might even be able to include the parents!
- Pretend to put out fires, build area to spray.
- Roleplay carpenter, baker, train conductor, bus driver,
- Paint the wooden blocks, plastic blocks and wash them in the sensory bin.
- Set up cafes, restaurants, dance studio, gas station, hardware store, hair salon. Style children’s hair or dolls have pictures of a variety of hairstyles from various cultures. Make sure to have materials that reflect different cultures.
- Set up different stores from various cultures. Add baskets, cash registers and boxes with different languages on them. The children can make money, visit the doctor or hospital, have a school, push a baby stroller. Label items and ask questions about money and prices. Display items to sell and have a delivery service. You can even wrap and package items for delivery, and create a delivery truck! Children might also be interested in making deliveries to the parents’ classrooms.
- Provide uniforms, hats and other clothing that represents the community helpers the children are interested in.
- Create an area to reflect a celebration or special event, it could be one from the children’s culture such as Eid, Nowruz, or it could be one that is happening in their community ( a festival or street event.) It could also be happening in the city they live such as Winterlude and the Tulip Festival in Ottawa.
- Home Depot construction area with tools, building materials, cashiers
- Grocery stores with food boxes, carts, signs, cashiers, real food
Gross motor and movement
- Talk about being healthy and strong (physically and mentally) to be able to take on different community helper roles and encourage large muscle activities and yoga for the children
- Create a roadway with stop signs or traffic lights. Have a police officer direct traffic while children go fast, or go slow.
- Children can be firefighters going to fight a fire
- Create a bus using chairs in a row – get the children to get on and off the bus and pay a fare
- Children can practice cutting and holding a pencil/crayon when they make pretend money for your pretend shop or restaurant.
- Using small tools to build and create are also a great way to incorporate fine motor development into dramatic play.
- Make playdough together and pretend to make cookies and treats using measuring spoons, cookie cutters, scissors etc.
- Write letters, put stamps on envelopes and pretend to be mail carriers!
- Use scissors, thread and needles to sew like a seamstress or doctor (you can use plastic safety scissors and needles, and work with yarn for younger children)
- Talk about the role of the community helpers and what happens when they do their job. Talk about how it makes you feel when they do their job. For example, when nurses give you a vaccine, it might make you feel nervous or worried. And the bus driver makes you happy when he takes you to visit a friend.
- Be aware that a child might not want to participate in an activity because of a personal experience. Help them to work through how they are feeling and provide support to children as needed. For example, if a child has been in the hospital, help them express what that experience was like, provide materials that allow the child to explore and express or act out how they feel about interacting with a community helper. Validate whatever feelings they express or concerns.
- Create sensory play opportunities that represent the roles of community helpers. For example:
- Baker: Have children make playdough – provide cookie cutters, rolling pins etc. You can also make pizza with the children – give them each a piece of dough, have them pull and stretch the dough, cut vegetables to add, talk about baking the pizza and then enjoy tasting it together! Talk about the experience, flavours, smells etc.
- Gardener: Use seeds or beans with cups of soil and water. You can also grow grass or flowers in a garden sensory bin for the children to look after
- Construction workers: Provide materials like sand, water, rocks, trucks and diggers for children to excavate the land and begin building a house. You can also provide tool belts, hard hats, forms/molds to create bricks, and small pieces of wood to add to the building.
Art and creative
- Create things that community helpers use/wear (for example: a chef hat or apron, or a firefighter badge and hose)
- Create a bus using a large box for the children to sit in get them to decorate it. If you are able to get more large size boxes create a transport truck, train, fire truck and an ambulance
- Ask them to express how they see community helpers giving open-ended creative materials for them to create their own representation of their experience with community helpers
- The children could mail each other pictures or letters and see how long it takes the mail carrier to deliver it.
- Talk about the different kinds of words the community helpers would use in their jobs.
Different material ideas:
- Dress up clothes such as firefighters, police officers, garbage collectors, doctors, nurses, office workers, construction
- Dramatic area representations
- Posters and information
- Loose parts and open-ended activities
- Visits from community helpers
Room setup and considerations
- You might need to make the dramatic area bigger to create some of the ideas for a community helper.
- Look at the other interest centres can they be incorporated into the dramatic play set-up. Could they be extensions of what is in the dramatic play area?