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Dramatic Play with Core Vocabulary

The Dramaitc Play Center or Housekeeping Center in an early Childhood classroom is an amazing place where children can imagine to be whatever they would like to be. They practice new skills in language usuage, fine motor dressing skills, and social skills in working with others. This center provides a foundation for creative writing, theater, and social studies. 

This language-rich dramatic play center or Housekeeping center contains toys and play furniture used in role play, dress up, and storytelling. This often includes a kitchen area, baby dolls, dress up clothes, play foods, brooms, purses, hats, and a mirror. Here students can role play a restaurant with menus and pad and pencil. They may act out favorite stories like Goldilocks and the 3 Bears.

For children with delays in language or English language learners, the dramatic play center is a highly motivating and engaging area to promote language opportunities. Considering the level of language the students use, teachers can model various sentence structures within this social setting: requests, comments, excitement, questions, directives, etc.  By modeling targeted core vocabulary words, students are exposed to the use of these words in authentic experiences. 

Core words are words used across all context. They are the foundation for langauge and are learned in context. Let's look at the core word Take:

  • Take a cookie
  • Take it off
  • Let's take one over to Brian.
  • Can I take some home with me?
  • She took the basket to Grandma's House.
  • It takes a long time to cook. 
  • Take a bite.
  • Take some more.
  • Can I take some too?
  • Don't take it away!

These core word experiences start with a core board. There are many styles and size, and there is no wrong answer for the core board. It just needs to be enough to communicate and consistent. Here is a sample board of 50

Because this is a language-based social-communication center, there are infinte ways to model core and embed fun activities.

Here are a few ideas: 

Cooking with Core:

Print core symbols on magnet sheets.  Place core word on a cookie sheet to build phrases. For more fun, use Gingerbread Men (Under Themed Picture Cards Template) with Core words. Yummy!


Label with Core Words

Label the Dramatic play area with Core words. For example – open (on refrigerator), look out (window), turn on /  turn off (play sink), eat (by play food), drink (by cups), look (on mirror)



Focus on the word Where. Model way to use "where" and point to the pictres: Where should we go? I like your shirt- where did you get it? Where do you live? Where does this hat go? 

Here is a puzzle game that focuses on where things go. 


Do You Like It? 

Set up play food on a table or counter pretending it's a grocery story. Have a student go shopping for food they like. Ask "Do you like it?" The student can aswer on a board if the food is good or bad


Here are some materials from the sharing center for dramatic play: 



Here are more ideas on Core Vocabulary and the Dramatic Play Area