I love a great Pretend Play Center - change your kitchen/housekeeping area up every so often to keep the fun fresh and to stimulate more verbal interaction between the children! I've seen/done Kitchen, Hospital, Doctor's Office, Vet's Office, Pizza Parlor, Bakery ... but here's one I just saw a few weeks ago:
I stopped by my friends' classroom - Mimi and Merrie - and they had this fabulous center up and running - it was a great favorite with the kiddies!
Here's what I observed: A table covered in craft paper with textured stencils taped down to do dino-rubbings; Bones (dog chews) and paintbrushes in sand for finding and preparing for "study"; Fossils made from plaster-of-paris (could be play-doh or other modeling clay) for examining, and more modeling clay and small dinosaurs for creating "fossils".
There were many dinosaurs on display and props to get in the mood: "Lab Coats" made from old adult-sized white shirts, with labels; Magnifying glasses and plastic lab/safety glasses; Charts and dioramas identifying all different dinosaurs, with pictures and labels.
Books in the library were also theme-driven! Include some great dino-books in yours - there is an Usborne Book of Dinosuars and a few younger non-fiction books by the Berenstains "The Day of the Dinosaur" and "The Biggest Dinosaurs" in my collection - and of course, some wonderful fiction books, like Jane Yolen's "How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?"
In this dino-center, there was much exploration going on - lots of questions asked and answered, lots of engaging pretend play! And, as always, along with the play ... tactile exercise, verbal exchanges, matching, sorting ... all sorts of learning was taking place! Thanks for the inspiration, teachers!