Pretend play

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By Sally Grayearly years teacher and writer

Get into character and use role-play toys to develop sorting, shaping and imaginative skills

Tea party

1 Our snack bar

Make tasty play-dough treats to sell in a role-play snack bar

Physical Development

Using Equipment and Materials

Development matters: understand that equipment and tools have to be used safely (30-50 months); explore malleable materials by patting, stroking, poking, squeezing, pinching and twisting them (40-60+ months).

Early learning goal: handle tools, objects, construction and malleable materials safely and with increasing control.

What you need

Group size: whole group.

Role-play area set up as a snack bar; table; chairs; play dough; pictorial menu cards; play-dough tools and cutters; plastic crockery.

What to do

Invite the children to help you set up a snack bar. Ask them to suggest play-dough dishes that they would like to serve in the snack bar. Create pictorial menus of the play-dough dishes (these can be drawn by the children or could be photographs taken of the completed dishes).

Allocate the roles of customers, cooks and waiting staff to each child. The cooks will need to create the play-dough dishes that are ordered, as well as stocking the display counter. Encourage them to use a range of tools and techniques to make the pretend food. Ensure that each child has a turn at being a cook.


Spend time manipulating the play dough with the children. Demonstrate useful techniques such as rolling, pinching, cutting and smoothing.

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