The House Area Getting Started & Materials

The House Area Getting Started & Materials

Getting Started

1. Kitchen

2. Food and utensils (four to five options)
0 - 2+ Years: One set of food, dishes, and utensils
3 - 6+ Years: Two to three different play sets (BBQ, pizza cutting, sushi)

3. Dress-up clothes
0 - 2+ Years: One to two hats, pull-on skirts, jacket, gloves
3 - 6+ Years: Two to four costumes, old button-up shirts, pants,

4. Babies and items for babies (one to two options)
0 - 2+ Years: One to two life-size baby dolls, high chair, crib
3 - 6+ Years: Clothes for babies, stroller, feeding kits

5. Table and chairs

6. Unbreakable mirror

7. Other (one to two options)
0 - 2+ Years: Child-size vacuum, broom, shopping cart (great for encouraging walking)
3 - 6+ Years: Cash register fake money


A kitchen will be one of the most used pieces of equipment in a playroom. It is a worthwhile investment (especially if you have more than one child)! Be sure the kitchen has a sink, oven, refrigerator, and cooktop stove.

For indoors, a kitchen constructed of wood lasts the longest and is very sturdy. The texture of wood is natural and soft for a child. A Melissa and Doug Classic Deluxe indoor kitchen retails in 2021 for approximately $140.

There are many different types of plastic kitchens and many are left free on the side of the road. Plastic kitchens are great options to rotate into a playroom even if you have a stationary wooden one (to make things fresh).

Plastic kitchens are also wonderful during warmer months, for outside play (because they can get wet and clean easily). Set up a kitchen next to your sensory table (refer to Part III: Sensory Table, page 169) filled with sand, a few buckets of water, or a hose, and it will become a whole new integrated learning activity. “Cooking” with sand and water is super fun.

You will be served mud pies, pizza, soup, cake, and so on! It does get messy so if you do incorporate water or sand, make sure you set this up in a space you don’t care will get wet and dirty, and is easy to clean!

There are basic items you always want to keep in the kitchen. Imagine you are trying to outfit a brand-new kitchen. For basic equipment, you would need pots, pans, teapots, utensils, bowls, cups, plates, a coffee maker, and more! Great items to rotate in this area from the Center Activity Table are food sets (practice cutting set, pizza set, birthday cake and candle set, BBQ set, sushi set, or other). It’s important to have a variety of textures for sensory development.

Collecting used items from families with older children and getting rid of things, at yard sales, or social media marketplaces are great options. Most toys are easy to clean with soap and bleach!

Dressing up is one of a child’s favorite things to do. Imagine a Halloween party year-round! Add to this collection over time: old shirts, skirts, pants, dresses, hats, scarves, jewelry, shoes, purses, suitcases, briefcases, plastic eye frames, sunglasses, and more. As things are outgrown, new items can be swapped in. There should be a mix of dress-up clothes for both boys and girls and gender-neutral clothes (even if you just have one gender).


Collect lots of hand-me-downs from grandparents, cousins, and friends. Grandparents often have lots of old items like bags, jewelry, old watches, shoes, necklaces, glasses, and more (and they love to give these things to their grandchildren).

Old Halloween costumes also work great, both adult and children’s sizes. Each year, put a new costume into the play pile. Once a costume becomes too small, simply cut off the feet until it no longer fits.

A few outfits are recommended to purchase to enhance pretend and imaginative play: a nurse or doctor smock, a fireman coat, hat, badge, and extinguisher, and a police jacket, hat, badge, and handcuffs. These roles are a big part of childhood. Children see these daily service heroes in the media, in parades, while in the car (when they hear a siren), and are taught about these roles in school.

My middle daughter wanted a cowgirl outfit for her birthday one year. It came with a gun and holster. This began gunplay in our home. There are differences in opinion, but research has found that boys who play cops and robbers, military games, or with guns are no more aggressive than those who do not. Surprisingly, studies show no link between playing with toy weapons in childhood and aggression in adulthood.

Researchers have not discovered whether it’s wired into the brain or through social learning, but the differences between how boys and girls role play are strong. Boys often play the role of the hero and girls often play princesses or movie stars. Boys will often be police officers to rescue someone. However, boys equally liked being the monster or villain! But, all children like to pretend to play all things, and girls will often be the hero or villain too. Allow and encourage girls and boys to experience and pretend to be all roles, especially roles typically female or male.

To store the clothes, make them easy to access for play. One large clear, three-drawer, and freestanding stackable storage bin works well. The clothes don’t need to be organized, just thrown in. They will be used often. Big items like the fire extinguisher and hats can be left on top. Add a few hooks to hang shirts or jackets near the play kitchen. Hooks also serve the purpose of teaching cleanup and how to hang items up and pull them down. Each thing in the playroom is designed to teach and help a child develop important skills.

All children love to dress up as different things at all ages. Dressing up is also always a favorite thing to do when friends come over.

Babies and Items for Babies

Every child should have life-sized baby dolls. Babies are natural and all children identify with them. Baby dolls make children feel big and grown up. They’ll model and role-play how they are and have been cared for. Playing with a baby doll touches all areas of learning.

A child will act as if a baby doll is a real person and interact with them this way. They will perform actions in sequence such as feeding, bathing, and putting the doll to bed. Playing with a baby doll allows them to practice appropriately holding and using items (such as spoons, bottles, cups, forks, bowls, and so on).

Boys love babies too! When my son was three, he adored motorcycles, loud noises, rough play, trucks, and cars, but he also loved babies as much as my daughters did. We often forget, with the constant gender conditioning in the media, that toys are gender-neutral to a child.

Items for the dolls should include clothing, diapers, bottles, Onesies, pacifiers, blankets, bottles, a stroller, a miniature playpen, a high chair, a carrier, a car seat, or other. If you’ve had a baby recently, you may still have some of these items. Baby toys are also a fun option.

Life-sized items are great, especially clothing (hats, shoes, bottles, pacifiers, diapers). But some toys will work better in a smaller size. It is easier for a child to maneuver a toy-sized crib or stroller, for example, instead of a full-sized one. They’ll be able to pick it up and take it around the house more easily.

Children will practice putting a hat on their heads, zipping up clothing, putting socks or shoes on, pulling up diapers or pants, putting on Onesies, putting on a shirt, buttoning buttons and snaps, and more. Taking clothing off is usually mastered before putting them on. Kids often find it easier to practice these skills on something or someone else before they can do it themselves. However, note that most children just leave babies and dolls naked after they are done playing with them.

As already discussed, conversing during play and stating the names of items is an important part of facilitation. It not only increases vocabulary and comprehension but also enhances social and emotional development. For example, ask your child questions while they play, “Is the baby sleeping?” or “Why is the baby crying? Is she hungry?”

Dolls are also great for teaching body parts. For example, “Where is the baby’s toe?” or “Where are the baby’s eyes?” It helps very young children understand eyes aren’t only on their doll’s face, but on all faces, including their own.
Diversity can enhance the experience too (having a variety of dolls, Caucasian, African American, Asian, Hispanic, or other)! Note, that some children will prefer to play these scenarios with stuffed animals, miniatures of people, Barbie dolls, or other dolls, rather than real-life baby dolls.

If you have younger children or are expecting a baby, baby dolls are a wonderful tool to introduce and transition an older child to the event. You can use this opportunity to expose the child to what will happen and give them a chance to experience things in a safe environment and place. You can teach the child how to gently hold, touch, burp, change the baby, and more. The more items you have for a coming baby, the more items you can introduce into the playroom at different times.

Table and Chairs

A child-sized table and chairs will be used frequently! Children will use it when serving pretend food, eating a snack, setting up a restaurant, crafting, games, and more. Begin with a small Fisher-Price plastic table with four chairs (many of these are also left on the side of the road).

Children quickly outgrow equipment made specifically for babies and toddlers. Don't buy baby or toddler sets of chairs and a table, unless you don’t mind replacing them after a year or two. You will also frequently be a participant sitting in one of the chairs. Just make sure whatever table and chairs you use are solid and sturdy and won’t tip or flip backward, especially with babies and toddlers.
When children become more mobile and transition to a separate Writing Area, refer to The Writing Area you can use the small plastic table and chairs to rotate in and out of the playroom to add variety to pretend play. 

They are also great to rotate outdoors in warmer months, or the basement during colder months. A child-sized table and chairs are heavily used pieces of equipment.

Large plastic toys or structures are great to rotate in and out of a playroom or indoors and outdoors!

Plastics are easy to clean with a power washer and a diluted bleach solution.

Unbreakable Mirror

This may seem like an odd item to list, but mirrors are wonderful for establishing identity and self-recognition. Young children can also develop pre-reading skills by watching themselves talk in a mirror (practicing pronunciation and vocabulary). Children at any age love to look and watch themselves in a mirror!

Unbreakable mirrors are bendable and made from plastic materials. Twelve inches by 48 inches is a great full-length size for a child. It doesn’t need to be mounted on the wall. It’s a great resource to leave near the kitchen and dress up clothes. Children love being able to move it and put it on the ground. When they are very small, they will lie on it, make funny faces, and kiss themselves. Things move a lot in a playroom. Small unbreakable hand mirrors are also a great addition.

Mirrors encourage self-awareness and self-care (recognizing teeth, the difference between messy hair and brushed hair, when faces are dirty and need to be washed, clothes are backward, and more).

As children get older, they’ll use mirrors to watch themselves play, have puppet shows, pretend stuffed animals or baby dolls are talking, and more. The use of mirrors will progress to seeing how they look, playing dress up, dancing, putting on makeup, or modeling.

Materials for the House Area

• Kitchen
• Child-sized table and chairs
• Unbreakable mirror
• Dishes, cups, pots, pans
• Iron and ironing board
• Kitchen utensils and Tupperware
• Cleaning items (mop, broom, vacuum)
• Various fake plastic and wooden food items
• Life-size baby dolls and items for babies (stroller, changing station, crib, high chair, diapers, clothing)
• Dress-up clothes (costumes, adult hand-me-downs, hat, gloves, jewelry, accessories)
• Items used in a house (baking pans, oven mitts, coffee maker, blender, tablecloth, curtains)
• Pocketbooks, bags, briefcases, wallets
• Soft space and seating (small cushions, bean bag chair)
• Telephones and computers (toy phones or old cell phones)
• Pencils and pads, calculator
• Calendar, camera, photos, rugs
• Decorations (pictures, non-toxic or plastic plants)
• Camping supplies and equipment (tent, canteens, BBQ kits, grill,
sleeping bags, pretend food)

The paperback version of Create a Home of Learning is available at Amazon, your favorite bookseller or

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