Birthday Imaginative Play

Ever since Little Pop’s birthday party we have had birthday fever in this house. Cakie is just desperate for it to be her birthday and, since that’s not going to be a reality for a while yet, I have created the next best thing-  a semi-permanent birthday play space instead.
On their little table in the play room we laid out just about everything we could think of to do with birthdays and I tried to cover as many areas of learning as I could (an unfortunate side-effect of being a teacher!)

 We collected some of the cards from my birthday and also picked up  a packet of cheap kiddie ones, and I put them out on the table with a basket of crayons and pens.

 She has enjoyed these cards and taken them around with her in her various bags, baskets, buggies and trollies, stuffing crayons into pockets and whipping them out to scribble on here, there and everywhere.
We got out the now battered post-box that we made and she enjoys trying her best to stuff and cram the cards into their envelopes so that she can post and repost them, and then deliver them to some lucky recipients around the house.

And I’m beginning to see and hear some first glimpses of emergent role-play reading (one of my absolute favourite developments in young children- so exciting!) She picks up the cards and envelopes that she has done mark-making on, scrutinises them for a few seconds then starts to read them back. “Dear Daddy Happy birthday! Love Mummy.” My heart swells.

What else do we have set out for play? Some party hats for dressing up and role-play. Baby Pop is particularly keen on these. She doesn’t like to be seen without accessories!

 Some gorgeous wooden cupcakes from Melissa and Doug that can be doodled on with wipeable markers (I’m in love!) and that have detachable icing and candles. Just perfectly designed for imaginative play for little ones.

We have lots of kitchen toys and real implements for imaginative cake mixing, baking and decorating. Whisks and spatulas, cup cake cases and candles bring a realistic element to the play and introduce opportunities for discussing real baking, recipes and ingredients. And I absolutely LOVE the beautiful set of wooden cakes and biscuits that sit on their very own little doilied cake stand (a very special gift from their late Grandma.) These are wonderful for counting, sorting, ordering and discussing, as well as pretend eating and serving of course!

And I occasionally get out a big helping of the strawberry sparkle play dough that we made back in February so that they can make “real” cakes too, squishing in candles, straws and crayons and blowing them out after singing Happy Birthday To You! over and over again. [On a side note, that play dough is hands down the best ever recipe we have made. It is still as soft and silky as the day we made it, and since I tweaked that recipe to make it my own I am very pleased to pass it on and recommend it! I think it will be going strong for quite a few months yet.]

“Happy birthday Mummy! Blow out the candles. You 1 now.”
She has been wearing every birthday badge that she can lay her hands on too!
I first set this up at the end of March and we have added and taken away elements since then. Her interest has been sustained due to her love of the theme and because everything is set out at her level, and is easily accessible, therefore enticing her to play. As play and interest wane, I will remove and replace the items with new ones, perhaps making the table into another creative space, a set up for a small world scene or just empty as a place to bring toys for building and storing.
I wonder what we will make next? 
Have you created a semi-permanent space for imaginative play? 
Please share!
This activity is good for:
* early literacy skills: emergent and role-play reading and writing/ mark making/ writing for a purpose/ story telling/ recall of important events/ imaginative and role play language
* early maths skills: counting objects/ sorting and ordering/ matching/ problem solving
* knowledge and understanding of the world: cooking/ ingredients/  utensils/ birthdays
* PHSE: special occasions/ birthdays/ getting older/ feeling special/ independent play/ collaborative play/ sustaining concentration for extended periods/ returning to build on previous play experiences
* Fine motor skills: squeezing/ rolling/ squishing/ flattening/ moulding
* creative and imaginative play


  1. says

    Oh! I’m just finding your blog now! I’m a Montessori Teacher, and (most importantly) Mom. I adore your blog, as an advocate for play and creativity.

    I did this last summer, almost the same set up! We practiced opening gifts and saying thank you :) With play, and role-play comes great grace and courtesy lessons.

  2. says

    We used some of these ideas today as playing birthdays seems to be a current favourite. I’m too messy to manage a semi-permanent play space-could never keep it under control. Would love tips for not letting it get out of hand.
    The whole hearted child talks about having various stations around the house-lovely idea if I could manage them.