With Pancake Day just around the corner and Pancakes being one of our favourite treats at any time of year, a Pancake Cafe was an easy option to introduce some role play into Squidge & Boo’s kitchen. Role play is something children develop quite naturally in their play. During pretend play you’ll hear them imitate what they see around them at home or on television. They can mimic actions, mannerisms, voices with intonation and phrases with near perfect accuracy. Sometimes with hilarious results!
There are a couple of key ways you can help your child to develop language through role play at home. The first is to play with them. Involving your child in a two-way conversation where you are both in role is very powerful. By being in role they have the freedom to try words and phrases they wouldn’t usually use. They can be whoever they want to be and often show more confidence than they would in real life situations. Involving yourself in their play, giving them responses, developing scenarios through interaction, encourages their thinking. They also have opportunities to empathise with different characters. Another way to enhance role play and the language opportunities they create is to add props to create specific scenes and settings.
We have had a play kitchen since Squidge’s first birthday, Knowing the value in imitation play for a long time it was on my must-have toys list early on. Our original little kitchen was moved out to the Wendy House during it’s summer makeover. Luckily, Santa brought us our new kitchen and lots of wooden accessories this Christmas. Our play kitchen seems to get played with in bursts, it’s either in constant use or gathering dust. As it’s lustre seemed to have lulled a little now it’s no longer new, I decided that adding some extra bits was a good way to entice the girls back to it.
- Empty kinder eggs – they are fantastic when pretending to crack them open.
- Milk – Water and white paint mix in an old vanilla essence bottle (glued shut!)
- Bluberries and Strawberries – simple shapes cut from felt
- Sprinkles – fancy paper straws, cut into small pieces all in an empty oil bottle
- Pancakes and syrup – also cut from felt, inside an empty tea bag box
- Squidge’s apron & hat
- A sign ‘Squidge & Boo’s Pancake Cafe’
- A menu – one on the window and a paper one on the table. The menu included really simple prices so Squidge could ask for the right amount.
As soon as I started putting together the bits and pieces Squidge was excited and wanted to play. I like to make the bits while she’s there to see, as that way she can see the effort that’s been put in so she’s more likely to look after it. She also gets to see how simple it can be to make your own things to pretend with.
Once everything was in place, Squidge decided she would be a customer first and I could be the chef. I donned the hat (as best as I could, it isn’t very big!), took her order and like any good waitress, I up sold the drinks. I modelled how to use all the things I’d added to her kitchen, cracking the kinder eggs, pouring in milk and flour before twirling the whisk. I fried the felt pancakes and topped them with her choices. I brought her and Boo fresh tea and then served their delicious fake pancakes.
Squidge was certainly on board with the whole charade and tipped the contents of her plate down her jumper – into her tummy of course! I had already totted up her bill and charged her appropriately, or not, as the prices are a little extortionate with everything increasing by £1 for simplicity!
Once the plates were cleared Squidge couldn’t wait to get started as the chef. She took mine and Boo’s orders and set to work in the kitchen. She cooked up a storm and narrated her actions as she did so. I love watching this type of play unfold. I caught a few bits on film and put them on my Insta stories. She really was entertaining. ‘Oh no, why won’t my eggs crack?!’, ‘Do you want strawberries and blueberries too, it’ll be super yummy’.
When asking how much things were from the menu, Squidge was carefully looking down the list to try give me the right price. We added simple pictures so she could find the right items herself.
Having words on objects wherever possible is a great way to introduce and encourage early ‘reading’. By that I mean, Squidge can see that the object is milk, therefore she knows the word on the side says ‘Milk’. She can play at reading this word, but it’s also going to become more recognisable as she sees it more often. Soon she’ll spot the same word on an actual milk bottle, then in the supermarket. She may also pick out the initial letter and sound and transfer this to other things. We’ve been playing with initial sounds a lot lately – but that could be a whole post in itself.
Squidge loved this game and insisted Daddy play with her when he got home from work. He happily obliged, parking himself on the tiny chair and pouring himself a pretend tea while she put sprinkles on his pancake. A memory I’ll certainly treasure. We’ve played again today after having real pancakes for breakfast. I’m certain we’ll keep up the momentum for a few more days. I may add a notepad next so Squidge can write down her orders.
We did do a little bit of addition together to add up prices. This and the writing are certainly ways you can develop this play for slightly older children. Another idea you could try would be to write recipes for the chef to follow, including the steps to make the pancakes and specific numbers for the toppings. This would lead nicely into following real recipes and creating their own versions.
What types of role play do your children enjoy? Have you got into character with them? How did it go, I’d love to hear about it!
Thanks for reading, love Cat, Squidge and Boo xxx
If you liked this post you might also enjoy Squidge and Boo’s self-chosen investigation ‘You gotta roll with it’