Is there ever a wrong time for pie? Children and their caregivers at the Tecumseh Branch were cozily enjoying a rich play environment this winter at the Sweetie Pies Early Learning Center located in the Children’s area. What skills can children learn in a dramatic play area?
Collaboration: Whether kids are putting on an apron to become a baker, making change and writing receipts at the puppet theater’s “drive up window”, or pushing a grocery cart/delivery truck around the branch to deliver their wares, kids are working together with their grownups and with each other.
Communication: Kids communicate by both word and action when choosing, making, and selling pastries.
Content: This center is brimming with content. Even though nobody’s directing the play except the kids themselves, they are using the available materials to determine their own play. Kids can read and write recipes, mix, roll, and bake pies, and sell them to lucky family and friends. There are even cards available to send a sweet message along with a sweet pie!
Creative Innovation: Because a dramatic play area is simply a coordinated assembly of interesting materials, kids are the ultimate deciders of how their play works. The “work table” for pie building has at times been a restaurant table, a picnic table, and a second oven. Who knows what else kids will innovate in the area!
One day, after a young Sweetie Pies employee craftily sold an ‘extra special’ $5 pie for $20 to an easygoing papa, I taught her about the word ‘upselling’. She already clearly understood and exhibited the concept- she just added the vocabulary.
Critical Thinking Skills: Applying previously acquired knowledge to new situations requires special skills that can break through at any time during play. Kids understood that selling more than one pie meant getting more than five play dollars from their grownup. Writing a receipt drove that knowledge home further, as well as offering practice reading, writing, and math. Does it feel like practice? No! It feels like what it is—play. Does this play also offer practical skills that will help children with school readiness? Absolutely. Because it’s play it’s fun, and because it’s fun they do a lot of it. Sneaky learning for the win!
Confidence: Exploring the early learning center can look different depending on the day, the amount of time spent, other people present, or any number of variables. More time and more visits deepen the learning and drive it home in more lasting ways. A child who simply stacks up ingredients in a pie pan might pretend to heat the ingredients in a pie pan or play with an egg beater on a subsequent visit, and children might gain the confidence to sell their wares to people outside their family with increased confidence in communal play.
The next stop for the Sweetie Pies learning center is the Hessen Cassel Branch Library. Call to find out when the shop is ready for business (260.421.1330)!
Want to learn more about the power of play- or baking- for young children? Check out these books available throughout our library system:
The Case for Make Believe : saving play in a commercialized world / Linn, Susan
Cooking Class : 57 fun recipes kids will love to make (and eat!) / Cook, Deanna F.
Kids Bake! : 100+ sweet and savory recipes / Good Housekeeping Institute
A Moving Child is a Learning Child : how the body teaches the brain to think (birth to age 7) / Connell, Gill
The Power of Play : how spontaneous, imaginative activities lead to happier, healthier children / Elkind, David