"Play is like fertilizer for the brain and we would be crazy not to use it."
- Dr. Stuart Brown
Play is one of the most important learning tools for early childhood development. Play is usually looked down on in a traditional educational setting, yet the benefits on the brain and the learning process have been proven.
One way to bring educational play into the classroom is through thematic role play. My classroom changes themes bi-weekly. For two weeks out of the month I completely change out the home living setting in our Imagination Center. Not only does our Imagination Center change, but I also change out many of the learning activities in all of the centers to correlate with the specific theme.
Added educational and developmental tools and props are always embedded into each thematic play set up. Math, literacy, writing, STEM and fine motor are all a part of the learning environment. While children are playing, they are learning important educational concepts, spacial and problem-solving skills, how to think creatively and to develop complex social skills.
The Cherry on Top Ice Cream Shop offers several roles that students can play: order taker, ice cream maker, cashier, server and customer.
The stand I use in my classroom is sturdy and affordable. Its a house brand from Walmart called Spark. To personalize our shop, I made a shop sign and an ice cream display shelf. The freebies for both of these can be found at the end of this post. The stand came with a red and white striped awning that cannot be easily removed, so I attached my own coordinating ice cream shop awning panel, using fabric velcro dots. The fabric velcro dots have a VERY strong hold and allow me to easily change out the look of the awning if desired. The shop awning is sewn out of a half yard of inexpensive cotton fabric.
The shop printables, including the number line, menu and labels are from the incredibly creative Pocket of Preschool Ice Cream Shop pack
on Teachers Pay Teachers.
A receipt book was added to entice students to use and improve upon their writing skills and fine motor practice. Young children really enjoy writing out receipts and being able to tear them out of the book to give to the customers. The receipt books come in various sizes and can be found at the Dollar Tree, or most dollar stores, so they certainly don't break the bank. TIP: use golf pencils or pencils that have been cut in half, to help discourage fisting pencils and encourage pincer grip instead.
Props don't need to be elaborate. That's the magic of a child's imagination.
No matter what props are set out, children use their creativity to make them whatever they would like them to be.
The shop aprons are Montessori style aprons, that foster independence by one simple easy velcro closure. The apron tags are in a vinyl pocket that is sewn onto the apron, making the tags removable and the aprons washable on the delicate cycle. The customer tags are on coordinating breakaway lanyards.
The scoops of ice cream are two inch pom-poms. I glued small "chocolate chip" felt clippings to the vanilla chocolate chip and the mint chocolate chip ice cream pom-poms. The large pom-poms fit perfectly in ice cream scoopers. The containers are plastic food storage containers that can be easily stacked when stored away.
The toppings are also made from pom-poms and felt. The bananas are layers of felt sewn together to make them more stable and durable. The chocolate, caramel and strawberry sauce is felt cut in random splash patterns. The whipped topping is two white felt rippled circles, in different sizes, sewn together to give the appearance of the classic whipped topping that comes from the can.
Empty whipped cream, chocolate, caramel and strawberry sauce containers provide great additional props and environmental print. I cleaned and dried them out completely, then hot glued the lids to keep them secure. The colored sprinkles container is full of real sprinkles, but the lid is also glued tightly to keep the sprinkles inside. The real sprinkles add to the effect of the prop. My students like the soft rattling noise they make when the sprinkles container is shaken to add pretend sprinkles to customer orders.
Children enjoy the opportunity to clean, so cleaning props are provided to "clean" their shop as needed. Play money for customers is in individual zipper pouches and also in the cash register, giving students the opportunity to practice math skills. I printed play money onto green Astrobrights paper, from the Pocket of Preschool Ice Cream Shop pack and added plastic play coins.
Many grocery chains carry very inexpensive disposable paper ice cream bowls and plastic spoons. Some local ice cream shops may also be willing to generously donate some of their disposable bowls with the shop logos, if you speak with a manager, explain you are an educator and what they'll be used for.
The plastic bowls and matching spoons in our classroom ice cream shop are from Amazon. Although I was able to have bowls donated from one of our local ice cream shops, I chose the plastic over paper for durability and to provide props that were neutral, to keep with our Cherry on Top shop name.
The Ice Cream Shop bunting and all wall signs are attached using
Command strips and Command hooks.
Since the Imagination Center is changed out so regularly, you can imagine the damage that could occur to the walls. To alleviate that problem, Command products provide a temporary but secure option. The flavors and toppings boards have removable options, if those running the shop want to only provide certain types to their customers. I laminated each option and used velcro dots to attach them to the corresponding board. The Command strips secure the boards to the wall well enough that students can rearrange the cards as often as they would like without the board coming off or damaging the wall.
The Ice Cream Shop bunting is hung with colorful baking string. I always make sure to laminate all the signs, labels, bunting and anything else that could use the added protection. It will also keep your props in great shape to be used over and over again in the future. I've attached the ice cream shop bunting freebie to the bottom of this post.
To get the Cherry on Top Ice Cream Shop sign, Ice Cream Shelf and the Ice Cream Shop Bunting freebies, click on the files below:
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My Amazon Picks, to make the
Cherry on Top Ice Cream Shop are: