There are a lot of names for this center by most classes call it home living or house keeping. Either name is fine. I went with home living because I wanted it to be about more than just cooking and cleaning, even though that is defiantly a huge part of the play in that center.
The most important pieces in your home living center are going to be your toy kitchen and table. If you are handy you could search Pinterest for some fabulous do it yourself ideas, but if you are like me you will want to buy one. Luckily this was a standard piece in all of the classrooms at my preschool so I didn’t have to buy one. If you do have to buy one, look for something fairly generic and gender neutral. You can add accessories to make it cutesy. Go for a wooden model with minimal decals so that it will last a long time! If you happen to have an IKEA near you they have this fabulous set! You can also order it from Amazon (they literally have everything).
You will want to get high quality accessories that will last a long time. Again IKEA carries some fabulous ones! You will want to buy things that can be used for playing house, school, grocery store and of course restaurant. Get some simple dishes, pots and pans, a little table and some pretend food (sandwich making sets are always a hit!). I am in love with the Melissa & Doug pretend food. For Chinese New Year I added a set of plastic sushi. Their reactions were pricless! Try adding some hand towels and oven mitts. And of course a little tea set for tea parties!!! It is hard to find gender nutral tea sets, but I like this one I found on Amazon.
A Little Bit of Real:
Add some real containers (empty, washed and sealed). My kids love cereal boxes, cracker boxes, Pringles cans, etc. If there is a mini version of the food products they love add that to save space. Leave the original stickers on the containers to encourage them to read environmental print. If you don't want to use real ones, Melissa & Doug carry a bunch of great realistic looking packaged food items.
Try adding some laminated take out menus from local restaurants. How about a cash register? Look for a toy cash register that has a built in calculator and pretend money.
I will do a whole post on dress up soon, but for now just keep in mind that you want to have a variety of different costumes for boys and girls. I switch many of my costumes out depending on the theme we are doing that week, but I always leave a few staple items in my center at all times such as aprons, ties, suit coats, dresses, work shirts, a hat or two and fun shoes. Many of my things are adult sized, but they don’t mind. They also really enjoy old cell phones, remots, wallets, purses, etc. My daughter got this little chef costume as a gift last Christmas! We love it!!!
Change Things Out:
Home Living is always a favorite among preschoolers! They are going to love anything you do, but to get the most out of the experience try changing things out with different themes. You don’t have to completely change your whole center each week, but changing something at least every few weeks to a month will keep things fresh and fun.
Here are some examples of ways I change it up during the school year:
C is for Christmas:
I love to decorate the home living center at Christmas time with a mini Christmas tree (including ornaments they can play with), battery opperated Christmas lights, and some gift wrapped boxes.
N is for Nutrition:
The center becomes a little farmers market. I switch out all the food for fruits and veggies in little baskets and crates, add reusable shopping bags, add a cash register, give them grocery list pads and let them enjoy shopping.
E is for Earth Day:
For Earth Day my home living center transforms into a Flower Shop. I buy a variety of cheap plastic flowers and pots for the center. Then I add window boxes with gravel (much easier to clean than soil), little trowels and gardening gloves. I bring back the cash register and let them buy and sell all week long!
Let’s Go Camping:
During my camping theme I take everything out of my home living space and add a real tent, camping chairs, a toy picnic table I bring from home, my kids sleeping bags, and a toy fire pit. They spend the whole week pretending they are camping and pretty much ignore the rest of the centers for the whole week. Last year I added a second tent.
At the end of the year my home living center becomes an ice cream shop! I have toy ice cream with cones and bowls. I add a scoop and a puppet stage the I decorate to look like an ice cream shop. Once again I bring back the cash register and let them go. They have such a blast!!!
These are just a few of the fun things we do with our Home Living Center. You could literally do anything. If you find something laying around your house that you think your kids would enjoy take it in! Change your center out often and try to keep it fun for both boys and girls. It is really easy to go overboard making it cutesy and end up pushing the boys away. I like to make mine look as much like a real house, restaurant, etc as possible.
What are some fun things you have in your home living center? How do you plan to change it up in the future?