Summer Dramatic Play Center Ideas

Text: Summer Dramatic Play Centers. Photos of a pretend campfire and a dish of ice cream.

Summer time invokes visions of camping, trips to the beach, and visits from the ice cream truck. Children and adults long to take advantage of the warm weather every chance they get.

But sometimes you are stuck inside during the lovely summer weather. I remember one May when it was gorgeous outside and it felt like an early summer (which is not always the case in the Midwest.) School was still in session, so we were all stuck inside for much of the day. So I decided to bring the summer to my classroom. I set up the cutest little campsite, complete with a lake full of fish. My little friends were able to practice social skills around the campfire. It was so much fun for them – and I loved watching them interact!

Maybe you are dealing with an early summer, too. Or maybe it’s too hot to play outside. Keep reading to discover 4 exciting summer dramatic play ideas for your classroom (a campsite, an airport, an ice cream shop and a beach). Not summer yet? Check out these ideas for spring dramatic play ideas and Christmas-themed dramatic play ideas.

Campsite:

Summer is the time for perfect time for camping. Let your students pretend to camp in your classroom. Before you begin, decide if you will have a simple campsite, or if you will add multiple activities, like a fishing lake or forest animals.

Photo of a pretend campfire with orange and yellow tissue paper for flames. Paper towel tubes are used as logs. A campsite is a great summer dramatic play idea.

Basic Supplies Needed:

  • tent (real, or sheets draped over chairs)
  • campfire
  • chairs around the campfire

Step It Up:

  • lake (use a blue sheet or tablecloth taped to the floor)
  • plastic fish and fishing poles (use dowel rods, string and a magnet to make your own; add paperclips to paper fish for kids to catch)
  • kid-sized boat
  • life vests
  • mountain scene hung on the wall
  • stuffed forest animals (bears, squirrels, etc.)

Keep It Organized:

Provide a large box (or cooler) for storing camping supplies. When it’s time to clean up, students can toss things in the box or cooler and you are good to go! Fishing and boating supplies can be stored in a boat or second large box.

You might also provide a photo of what the clean center looks like (for example, where the campfire and chairs should go). Then students can refer to the photo as they clean.

As another option, if you have an empty shelf available, you can add shelf labels to help students clean up neatly. This dramatic play kit includes shelf labels, a Nature Hunt, packing lists, camping safety reminders and more.

Airport:

Celebrate the summer travel season with an airport in your dramatic play center. Students will love choosing travel destinations and serving as pretend pilots. Before setting up the airport, decide if you will include a TSA checkpoint and luggage (which can be fun, but bulky to store.)

Basic Supplies Needed:

  • chairs for the airplane, including 1-2 for the cockpit
  • a shelf or other divider to set the cockpit apart from the cabin
  • some knobs, buttons and switches for the pilots (a baby toy may do the trick)
  • paper tickets (even strips of scratch paper where students write their names) 
  • short-sleeve button down shirts for the flight crew to wear

Step It Up

  • travel posters/brochures
  • numbers for the seats
  • paper passports
  • luggage and luggage tags
  • add a TSA checkpoint out of PVC pipes (shaped like a clothing rack)

Keep It Organized:

Before setting up, use a shelf or puppet stage to divide your dramatic play space into a cockpit and plane cabin. Set up chairs for flight crew and passengers. Use shelf labels to indicate where extra tickets, passports, and travel brochures should be kept.

Limit passengers to the number of seats on the plane. Additional passengers will need to wait for the next flight.

How It Works:

Students write their names on the airplane tickets. Older students might also use invented spelling to add their destination. (All destinations board the same flight with this magical airline!)

The use of airplane tickets (boarding passes), passports and luggage tags provides authentic reading and writing in this pretend airport! You can make your own paper materials, or find them in this dramatic play airport kit.

Ice Cream Shop:

Nothing screams summer like ice cream! An ice cream shop for your summer dramatic play center is sure to be a hit with your students. You can keep this simple by serving only ice cream, or include some other ice cream treats. You can also buy plastic ice cream treat sets to use in the center.

Supplies:

  • plastic ice cream cone sets (or giant pom poms and plastic bowls)
  • ice cream scoops
  • pretend money and cash register

Step It Up:

  • use play dough for pretend ice cream
  • create order slips
  • laminate brown paper, then roll into a sugar cone shape
  • use bowls and colored play dough for ice cream
  • use small pom poms and yarn or felt to create other ice cream toppings
  • add written order slips
  • use felt and popsicle sticks to create a variety of frozen treats

Keep It Organized:

Use a puppet stage as an order window. Add several small boxes for cones/bowls, ice cream, and ice cream scoops. 

If you choose to use play dough for the ice cream, provide several small containers with lids to help the play dough last longer. 

Beach:

Summer is the perfect time to head to the beach! Bring the beach inside with a fun beach-themed dramatic play center. Before you begin, think about how much mess you can handle. If you are brave, you can add real sand to your beach. If that feels too chaotic, your students can use imaginary sand (which never creates a mess!)

Supplies:

  • beach towels
  • blue and tan roll paper (to create water and sand)
  • pool floats
  • child-size beach chairs & books
  • plastic cooler

Step It Up:

  • plastic/blow-up pool
  • sand
  • buckets and shovels
  • seashells
  • beach umbrella
  • old cameras/phones to capture fun shots at the beach

Setting Up the Beach:

To keep it simple tape tan paper (or plastic) to the floor to create a beach. Then overlap the sand a bit with a  large piece of blue paper (or plastic) to create the water. Kids can “float” on pool toys in the water, and lounge on beach chairs on the sand.

If you feel brave, use a plastic or blow-up pool and add a layer of sand. Students can use buckets and shovels to play

Keep It Organized:

If you use real sand, you will likely want to tape a table cloth to the floor beneath the pool as an added layer of protection for your floor. The sand toys can be easily stored in the pool, which will help keep the sand contained.

The pool toys and beach chairs can simply be stored where they are used. To help students keep the beach tidy at clean-up time, you may include a photo of the beach set-up.

Your students will have fun with these summer theme dramatic play centers. It’s a great way to bring a little bit of summer inside on those really hot days. Looking for dramatic play ideas for other seasons. Here are some ideas for spring and ideas for Christmas. Not sure how to make time for dramatic play in your busy day? This post is of full of suggestions to squeeze out time for play!

Text: How to Add Summer Fun to Dramatic Play. Photo of a pretend campfire made with tissue paper and paper towel rolls.
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