Teaching Peace with Elyse: Dramatic Play with Child-Made Props

Three-year-old twins from our youngest class were on the Expressive Arts train “Going to Kentucky and Sonoma,” and other places they were familiar with. One boy jumped off and began arranging chairs in a line.

I thought he might be making another train until he stated, “It a car. I’m going to work.” Joining with the idea, his brother made a second car, facing him, on the opposite side of the room.

They each began to drive, gesturing with their arms, laughing.

“Oh, no, we going to crash,” said one of the boys.

“We crashed,” said the other. “We need a police!”

“I’ll be the police,” said a third child who had been making a very intricate sculpture but readily agreed to join the play.

“Police, police, we need a police!” shouted the twins in unison.

“Here I come,” said the third boy, first finding a safe place for his tube and tape creation.

They gathered together at the scene of the crash. There was a long pause. All three stood still. What would happen next?

I prompted, “How would the police help?”

“Write a ticket,” they agreed. The third boy returned to the table to cut tickets from swatches of paint colors.

He returned to the scene of the crash, gave out the tickets, and that was the end of the story.

Teacher Guidelines:

Whether you name it dramatic play, storytelling or story-making, the addition of child-made props adds authenticity and originality to the play. It also allows for breaks in the action to make things and then return to the story. This form is mainly about process. It also develops emotional and social skills such as inclusion, cooperation and development of the friendship skills.

Newsflash!! Just as I was about to offer story-making guidelines for teachers, the Earlychildhood Newslink arrived in my inbox.


It contained an excellent featured article by Ann Richards, The Story is Just the Start. She writes all I would have and much more!! The article has excellent ideas for teacher-initiated activities from the associate director or The Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts. Thank you, Ann! 

My focus is on encouraging and scaffolding what emerges from the children’s play. Spontaneous dramatic play often occurs in an area of the room set up for this purpose. These areas often contain child-sized kitchen equipment, cabinets or other identifiable objects. I’ve also observed very successful areas set up in classrooms that include beautiful pieces of fabric, natural materials such as river rocks and purposeful connections to block areas. The children are free to use these non-specific objects in a multitude of ways.

Take time to observe your children at play. Opportunities to encourage and expand on their storytelling are often present. Based on your observations, make suggestions for props they might create to enliven their story.

Whether child- or teacher-initiated, or some blending of the two, story-making encourages creativity and imagination; develops language and fosters social intelligence.