Pretend play is natural for most children. This is when preschoolers take on roles they aren’t ready for according to their or our standards. Driving cars, making meals, being parents, superheroes, or just doing jobs like working at a bakery. Pretend play allows children to explore being in control in ways their real-life world doesn’t allow them. It allows them to stretch beyond reality and practice skills and tasks they can’t do anywhere else. Children don’t need a lot of preps or prompt for pretend play, but in a classroom, I find students get into ruts of the same play over and over, which is not inherently harmful but it can limit who children play with when ruts occur. Instead of telling students not to play something ( I don’t choose what they do during free choice), I offer some novelty from time to time. Multiple times a year I offer pretend play set-ups and that novelty usually sparks some new play naturally. This is a great example of pretend play in preschool.
Pretend Play & Bakery Set Up
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You have a kitchen area in your classroom right? Please tell me you do. In my opinion, these are absolutely essential. Assuming you do, this bakery pretend play is a perfect addition to your kitchen area. Grab a few dollar-store cookie sheets and print out these printables. Laminate and you are set!
If you want to get fancy of course you can add the extras I have like a coffee maker, cash register, and these amazing cupcakes. Trust me though, kids don’t need all this. A few simple prompts can be magical!
Let Them Play
Resist the urge to direct your students’ play. Watch and see how they are playing with the materials but stay out of it. Unless they offer you some coffee or a donut, let them be.
My favorite thing about pretend play is that students that don’t often play together end up playing together for extended periods. Yesterday when I set this up in my PreK class, two of my boys played with it for the whole free-choice time. I checked in on them a few times and they had a very sophisticated system going, where they would each get to be the worker and then the customer. They were practicing so many social-emotional skills and all they knew was that they were playing. It was a joy to watch.
Get the pretend play printables for free here!
Books About Baking
I’ll Wait Mr. Panda by Steve Antony is one of my favorite little books about waiting that even the youngest children will love. My students and I read it and discussed how hard it is to wait and be patient. Baking is one of those activities that forces us to practice being patient and this book captures that. This book is great for circle time as it encourages developing patience and highlights a male character doing something that is stereotypically female in a stereotypically female apron. Children need to see these images and learn these lessons. I also love the lesson about trust that is weaved into the lesson about patience.
The Duchess Bakes a Cake by Virginia Kahl. Did you read this book as a child as I did? It took me forever to find this book, I had forgotten the title and author all I remembered was that there was a child named Gunhilde! Thank goodness for Google! The story is very sweet with the Duchess giving her castle staff a day off because she wants to bake a cake for her family. Unfortunately, things go awry, and she loses control of the ginormous cake, and the Duchess gets stuck on top of it high in the air! Luckily the Duchess is better at problem-solving than baking and a solution is found!
Pop Pop and Me and a Recipe by Irene Smalls is a little book about the sweet bond between a boy and his grandfather. Their love of baking, especially Lemon Bar Cake is what bonds these two. This is a great book for circle time because the text is written in rhyme and the words are action words that keep young kids who need to wiggle and move during read-alouds engaged. After reading this book it’s the perfect time to bake and practice the patience that the grandfather made look so easy in the story.
Mr. Cookie Baker by Monica Wellington was an instant hit at our house, and with every preschool group, I’ve ever read it to. Mr. Cookie Baker is a charming baker, and the book shows the reader how he makes cookies from scratch, ices them and sells them. It’s a great book to explain baking and bakeries to preschoolers. I like the illustrations, because they are bold and detailed without cluttering the pages and can almost tell the story themselves. Be warned though, reading this will almost definitely make you crave a cookie or five.