Classroom Kitchen or Dollhouse

KitchenMy classroom is a kindergarten classroom. For the great majority of the year it is busy with twenty little five or six-year-olds. I hope, and think, I am highly thoughtful about the items in our classroom and the way the space is organized. That said, I’ve only taught kindergartners for one year so I still have a lot to learn and think about.

Recently I’ve had conversations with several people I respect that have me thinking about one thing in our classroom. The first conversation involved a colleague questioning the existence of kitchens in our kindergarten classrooms. I wasn’t totally sold on my classroom kitchen last year as it was often the craziest place in our classroom when kids were there. (I do realize that what should have resulted from this observation was a greater involvement in this area on my part. I failed at that. Typically, during this time, I was working with individuals or small groups, in my defense!)

I mentioned this conversation to a counselor friend who immediately defended the kitchens. Later, she mentioned that she would accept kitchens leaving kindergarten classrooms if they were replaced by dollhouses. My gut response was that I would prefer a dollhouse over the kitchen. Another good friend mentioned how much he preferred kitchens over dollhouses as a kid.

I’m now wondering several things. Why do (did?) I prefer a dollhouse over a kitchen? I think a dollhouse feels more open, as if it offers more opportunities for imaginative play. But is that true? Is having a kitchen or dollhouse important in a kindergarten classroom? Why?

Image from Robert's flickr stream

6 replies on “Classroom Kitchen or Dollhouse”

  1. suevanhattum says:

    Both should be there. They are both about daily life. The more you can make them welcoming to kids of all genders, the better. I am not versed in the strategies for this. I hope some of your other readers are. Have you read Vivian Paley’s books?

    Actually, instead of a dollhouse, why not have a pretend area that includes dolls? Dollhouses seem too fussy to me.

  2. Tara says:

    I think that dollhouses are “too fussy,” too. Would suggest a play area with dolls/puppets…if the kitchen was gone.

    In the end, when you think about the purpose of these spaces, does it matter so much what form they take? If we’re trying to provide a developmentally appropriate learning environment, one that values the role of play and creativity, kids will imagine and make anything work to meet those needs. We could give them some cardboard boxes and pillows…and they would still “build” something interesting.

    On a personal note, I think the kitchens are supercool. How often do kids get a kid-sized version of their living environment? Keep it!

  3. Debra Schleef says:

    Wonder if it reflects people’s attitudes about cooking? As a “chore” or imaginative? I think the latter, but many the former… So adults might think kids can’t really enjoying mimicking adults here? I’d have to see how they play there; probably some updated sociogical observations like the ones long ago, when gender roles were different.

    • Frances Lieb says:

      Perhaps it depends on what you put in the kitchen. Individual measuring cups for greater than and less than; recipe books for friendship stew; cooperation activities; opportunities for taking turns; little sponges for clean up; a high chair and baby. Perhaps an art activity to decorate the walls of the kitchen and make flowers for the table; a morning meeting activity to talk about what dish will be made in the kitchen today.

      A doll house is great but it really works with only one or two children at a time.

  4. Ann-Bailey says:

    The kitchen is where everything happens in everyone’s house. It’s not about cooking, it’s about where people live. I’ve learned more about children’s perception of the world while watching how they play in there. Sometimes it doesn’t even involve cooking. I have a very clear memory of watching a group of kinders playing in the kitchen with one yelling, “Shut up and be quiet so we can go to McDonalds for dinner!” Then they acted out getting in the car and the police (who were clearly the bad guys in this scenario) pulling them over because the kids were being too loud in the back seat. Another time I remember watching kids act out going to a funeral in the kitchen because of of their grandparents had just died.
    The kitchen also allows for so many learning and literacy opportunities. I used to get so much data on IEP goals from spending time in the kitchen with the kinders. We could practice sorting and counting skills, work on making eye contact and talking with our friends, and experience reciprocal social play. I used to do interactive writing with them to make menus to turn the kitchen area into a restaurant. Then the next time they came back they’d be using their reading skills to order from the menu they wrote and they would use their math skills to count out the fake money to buy things. I’d also leave lots of paper and pencils over there to encourage lots of writing from taking orders, making shopping lists, or taking notes when they talked on the play phone.
    Wow, I miss working in a kindergarten that had play. At my current school there are not doll houses or kitchens, or blocks, cars, or any play time.
    I love doll houses too and the basic ones aren’t fussy at all. However, kitchens allow for more kids to be involved in the play just from a space perspective.

  5. Kimberly says:

    When my youngest son was in daycare, he loved playing in the kitchen (it was called the Housekeeping Center). I know both toys could be (and should be) gender neutral, but I don’t know if he would feel the same if faced with smaller dolls and a dollhouse.

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