As the days get shorter and sunset comes around, oh, 4:30, it seems like our activities become limited. No more riding bikes and scooters in the cul-de-sac until seven o’clock. No more throwing some bags and barbequing out back. No more nightly walks into the sunset. But that’s probably why Christmas comes during this dark time of year – just when we need to sprinkle a little light in our lives. We’ve got sledding, going to drive-thru light shows, visiting the North Pole (for you Colorado folks), watching Home Alone, and making tons of crafts. One of my favorite traditions is baking Christmas cookies with my kids. And to add even more to this sweet tradition, we made a Christmas dramatic play set full of learning through play: the Christmas Bakery. Check out 10 ways to learn through play with these ideas for a Christmas dramatic play center!
Christmas Lesson plans
Ideas for christmas Dramatic Play
Setting Up the Center
Oh, snap! The kids, including our neighborhood kids, all wanted to play in the bakery. There were so many different, fun roles for them to immerse their imaginative minds into – they played all week!
But first, let’s talk about the set-up. There are three main areas to this Christmas dramatic play: the kitchen, the display stand, and the dining area. That way, there’s space for the bakers, baristas, cashiers, and customers all to do their thang.
I can’t decide whether I like the hot cocoa machine or felt cookies better. Both I am in love with!
Christmas Bakery Dramatic Play
For our treat display in the market stand, we used these small silver trays that I found at the Dollar Tree. They are the perfect size for a little shop.
Our Christmas cookies were by far the most time-consuming item to make, but I really really really loved them and how the icing stuck to the cookies perfectly. Worth it! First, I traced my circle cookie cutter onto stiff tan felt (Hobby Lobby) and cut the cookies out, leaving the excess “dough” intact. That way, the kiddos could pretend to roll the dough and cut out the circles with the cookie cutter. Next, I traced circles onto stiff red, green, and white felt, but I cut them out with a wavy pattern to make the icing. Last, I hot-glued sprinkles (strips of felt or hole punches) on top of the icing. Voila! Don’t have time for this: check out Melissa & Doug’s Christmas cookie set.
Last, I made these treat boxes, which enthralled the kids. Just add the labels in the dramatic play set to folding boxes or brown bags for your Christmas bakery.
Baking in the Pretend Kitchen
Next up, we have one of the most important jobs of a baker at Christmas: baking cookies. Out of all of the treats to bake, this was by far the favorite, which means all of my hard work making those felt cookies paid off.
First, the kids pretended to roll out the dough with the cookie circles still inside. Then, they used a circle cookie cutter to cut out the cookies and bake them in the oven. Next, they frosted the cookies with the icing bags and only showed the solid color of the icing. Finally, they flipped over the cookies to reveal the sprinkles while shaking the container.
Baking in the Pretend Kitchen
No one can resist a donut, and if you can turn down a delicious donut, we simply can’t be friends. Even the kids found these miniature donuts irresistible. They were a hot commodity in the bakery, especially the blue one with sprinkles. My girls are in a fight-over-anything-and-everything stage right now, so I know. This week: the blue donut.
To make the donuts, we pretended to cut them out with the circle cookie cutter and fry them in the pan (icing side down). Then, we used our icing bags to frost them and flipped them over to reveal the frosting. The icing bags were such a neat touch. And trust me, they don’t take long to make either! Just cut the zippers off of plastic bags, stuff with pompoms, and secure with a rubber band. It’s these little details that really bring the Christmas dramatic play center to life!
Baking in the Pretend Kitchen
The last item we pretended to make in the kitchen was cupcakes. We just kept this simple with a muffin tin from the dollar store (just 6 wells and fits in the play kitchen perfectly), red silicone cupcake liners, and printouts of some chocolate frosting. For those of you that are a touch more crafty in the sewing department, you could make some sweet felt cupcakes. Pun intended!
Class Recipe Book
So, we compiled all of the step-by-step recipes into a binder using page protectors. To add a personal touch, we wrote recipes for our favorite holiday treat. The perfect way to incorporate writing into this Christmas dramatic play set up!
It was definitely interesting to hear what ingredients they thought were in their treats and how to make them. My eldest daughter is definitely experienced in the baking department. She loves sweets, just like her mama.
Students at different levels will be able to write more words or beginning sounds, while younger students can just focus on the pictures. Easy to differentiate for all learners.
We also added these to our binder. With the cover, it just turned out so cute as an idea for the Christmas dramatic play center!
Roles in the Christmas Bakery
Okay, who doesn’t love stepping up to the counter and ordering a special treat? There’s something in the anticipation of getting an old favorite or trying something new. Maybe it’s that excitement that caused several orders from my kiddos to include every single treat that the bakery offered. Hmm.
Either way, all of that talking is exactly what I like to hear. Any experience that we offer our children should include communication. This can be ordering their favorite treat, saying hi to a worker, listening to others, or using manners when ordering (I included the sentence stems on the sheets to remind our little ones). All of this talking builds vocabulary, comprehension, sentence structure, and more! So let’s hear that chitter-chatter!
Roles in the Christmas Bakery
Next, this role in the Christmas dramatic play center is essential for operations running smoothly: the cashier. The cashier is in charge of taking customers’ orders using the order form. All they have to do is circle the items as the customers say them. Then, I added in a little bit of counting by having them circle the total number of items ordered at the bottom.
The cashier also takes the money. Students who are more advanced may count out the Gingerbread Bucks for each item using the prices listed on the menu. Otherwise, they can just simply pretend to pay.
Lastly, the cashier puts the orders together. If there isn’t a barista working their shift today, they can make the hot cocoa. They also put all of the baked goods into the boxes for each customer. And finally, they are in charge of helping sort all of the baked goods onto the designated trays when the customers are finished. Such a busy job in the dramatic play center!
Hot Cocoa Machine
DIY Prop for Dramatic Play
One of my favorite parts of the Christmas Bakery was this hot cocoa machine! I just used a small box about the size of a shoebox and cut out about 2/3 of the front. Then, I used that scrap piece of cardboard to tape underneath. That way, there was a place to attach the spout (a small upside cup with brown tissue paper taped inside). Finally, I added in the label and the drain and we had the perfect place to dispense hot cocoa.
Either the barista or the cashier was in charge of filling the cups according to each customer’s order. Grab a small, medium, or large cup and press the corresponding button on the machine. The perfect way to practice identifying sizes and have fun doing it!
I have to say, I have been using disposable cups for many dramatic play centers, and I really didn’t like that the plastic would break and I would have to recycle them. I don’t even use disposable goods in my own kitchen! I finally, finally found white cups that come in three sizes that are durable and can be used again and again! Check out the link here!
Using Children's Art as Decorations
Last, but not least, we have the perfect craft to add a little Christmas spirit to your dramatic play center. We made these poinsettias simply by cutting out the template that is included, stapling it together, and gluing a yellow pompom on top! I just love it when the kids can add their own little touches to our center. It not only gives them a sense of ownership, but it also works those fine motor cutting skills.
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This Christmas Bakery was a sweet way to learn through play! The kids truly had so much fun with this one! Now, we are surely in the mood to make our own Christmas cookies. Cannot wait!
I hope you and your students enjoy some of these ideas for Christmas dramatic play this holiday season! If there is anything you need to make this work for you and your students, just contact me here, and I’d be happy to help with anything you need!