Ice Cream Shop Dramatic Play

Ice Cream Shop Dramatic Play

I noticed so many valuable things going on with my girls' play during this activity. They were practicing developmental skills such balance, hand-eye co-ordination, problem solving and using many of their senses: touch, sight, hearing. Since sharing is not a quality that many preschoolers are 'good' at (nor should be expected to be); the key to this was having two identical trays. I noticed that both girls were very respectful of each others' materials and they played together, that's right, TOGETHER for most of the morning and were having lots of lovely conversations about their play!! 

ice cream shop sensory bin.JPG

Sensory play means activities that stimulate your child's senses; touch, smell, taste, movement, balance, sight and hearing. Sensory activities help with exploration and naturally encourage children to use scientific processes while they play, create, investigate and explore. 

In this activity, I set up two identical trays for my girls aged 4 and 2.5 years. The key to this activities success was having two identical sensory trays, so as to avoid any disagreements over materials and tools. I then set up a small table with two stools and placed the trays on top. This is what is now know as an 'Invitation to Play'.

An invitation to play is setting up an environment so that it β€œinvites” children to come to an area to explore, investigate, question, examine, participate, touch, feel, and manipulate through as much independent play as the materials can possibly allow.

The key to this type of play is that you create the scene, then let the child dictate the play. With a variety of materials and tools, they will create their own ideas on how they want to play with it. They may even want to bring in other things to the play, and I think that is fine too. 

I introduced this to my girls on a Saturday morning at around 11am; and was delighted that they were both still sat at the table playing with the contents of their trays an hour and a half later, when I stopped them to have lunch. I left the trays as they were for the remainder of the day. They both returned to the trays many times throughout the afternoon. 

It was really interesting watching how they tackled the play in their own unique way with 2 year old Sadie getting stuck straight into scooping, pouring and mixing the rainbow rice and pom poms into just about every vessel. Farrah on the otherhand, contemplated her tray for a while before deciding how she was going to play; all the while watching what her little sister was up to. In the end she decided she wanted to include her favourite doll, and retrieved that along with a toy high chair so that she could make ice creams and feed her doll. Farrah was also obsessed with keeping her tray neat and tidy, and wanted all the rainbow rice colours to stay separated; from the photo below you can see her sister was the complete opposite! 

You can watch a short video of what they got up to here.


If you want to set up your own ice cream shop sensory tray similar to this one; all you need is some simple and cheap materials from your local craft shop and even more you will be able to reuse everything again.

cotton wool balls for ice cream

coloured pom poms for fruit toppings

rainbow rice as sprinkles (see how to make your own rainbow rice here)

Christmas Tree Invitation to Decorate

Christmas Tree Invitation to Decorate