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 and 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
- Research what other jobs would include science
- Construction community helpers can use magnets for tools, screws etc
- Talk about the different kinds of words the helpers would use in the jobs
- Who would they need to help them do their jobs? For example doctors get help from nurses and pharmacists to look after sick people
- 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 such as “Stop” or “Pay Here”
- Play matching games – matching and sorting items or sizing.
Culture and diversity
- Show representations of different genders and cultures taking on these community helpers roles
- Find out about community helpers from the children’s cultural backgrounds. Who would be important?
- Find pictures and books of what police officers look like from different countries. What about fire fighters, teachers and paramedics? What kinds of vehicles do they drive?
- 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 the community helpers they are likely to meet, police officer, firefighter, nurse, doctor, paramedic, teacher
- Introduce the children to community helpers – for example, crossing guard, librarian, community centre worker, zookeeper, gardener, store clerk, cook, restaurant server, delivery driver
- 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 helper’s 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 zoo with animals, a doctor’s office, dentist office. Include materials that would be used in these places such as toothbrushes, doctor kit. Have police uniforms and hats. Invite a police officer to come to visit the children.
- 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, teacher
- 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, 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 library with books and newspapers from various cultures, set up chairs, make library cards. Stamp the card when items are borrowed and returned. Visit or have parents take the children to the library.
- 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.
- Create areas that represent places in their community such as Tim Horton’s, Safeway
- Home Depot construction area with tools, building materials, cashiers
- Grocery stores with food boxes, carts, signs, cashiers, real food
Gross motor and movement
- 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
- 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
- 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 what community helpers do and how how it makes you feel .
- Give each child an environment that allows them to express or act out how they feel about interacting with a community helper. Validate whatever feelings they express or concerns.
- Create a garden in the sensory bin, grow grass or flowers so they can look after them
- Incorporate figures or animals in the sensory bin
- Add figures or tools in the play dough that reflects a community helpers role
Art and creative
- Make police hats and badges, firefighters, make or paint a 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.
- Use the titles and language that the community helpers might use
- Read stories that talk about the role of community helpers Sing songs about community helpers. For example – Wheels on the bus, Miss Polly Had a Dolly
- The whole group could write a story about a community helper they have experienced or a letter thanking someone in the community for their help.
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?