Sunday, July 7, 2019

Build-a-Car Auto Shop Dramatic Play

It's probably nobody's favorite place in "real life," but to my two boys, an auto shop holds all the wonder their young imaginations can hold. Tools, building, washing, painting, constructing, deconstructing, repairing... This dramatic play setup has it all and was super easy and quick to set up using things we had at home, recycled materials and loose parts and a few add ins from the dollar store.

I also made use of this Auto Shop Dramatic Play set by Pocket of Preschool, my go-to supplier of great dramatic play resources and ideas. I particularly like the elements of literacy she adds in through signage, labels, writing and drawing opportunities and ways young players of all ages and stages can contribute to creating their play environment. You can certainly add in your own labels and find free printables or create your own online. I made a bundle purchase when there was a flash sale on Teachers Pay Teachers last year on an entire dramatic play set and it's been a huge time saver for me. I also find that in these summer weeks, we need to change out our play themes and materials a bit more frequently to keep everyone interested and engaged.
Scooter boards are a great and easy to store gross motor toy and
are perfect for scooting under vehicles in need of repairs or driving
around town in a cardboard box car...

Our pizzas had seemingly gone a bit stale over this past Shabbos and I asked the boys if they were ready to change over our play theme. They both were quite excited by the prospect. I asked first if they had ideas and S wanted to bring back a few old favorites. I love that he enjoyed some of our past themes so much that he wants to do them again (and we will!) but I also had another idea up my sleeve that I'd been storing (both literally and figuratively) since the winter. We have a lot of interest in tools, building and repairing things here. In fact, for S's recent 5th birthday, I found myself nowhere other than the lumber department of Lowe's shopping for his birthday present--wood, a new personalized tool bag and some tools to go with it plus a stack of books (sold separately).

I had in mind to set up an auto-mechanic's shop for the boys over the winter and we never got to it. And after a recent trip to Build-a-Bear Workshop, I thought, how cool would it be if we combined that idea with our very own Build-a-Car workshop? We have no shortage of recycled materials and loose parts here... [it's not hoarding if I have a use for it someday....]

 So with a little bit of organization and set up, we combined the best of two beautiful worlds: dramatic play and building with loose parts and opened up shop--our Build-a-Car Auto Shop, to be precise!

These mechanics are honest [to a fault]. They work hard, efficiently and might make lemonade out our lemons. They can turn an old jalopy into a work of art. As long as you think masking tape and neon straws are aesthetically pleasing. So give us a call on our calculator phones, we'll book you an appointing in the appointment book. One of our hardworking mechanics will take your customer information and they will get you on your way and going in no time at all!
You can also bring your vehicle into the shop for a wash and detail. In other potentially related news, if you set up a giant bucket of things for washing and painting a car, give no instructions or introduction, go upstairs to feed the baby and leave two little boys to their own devices, you will probably come down to find they added water to the scene and the hardwood floor is now very clean... Lesson learned, rookie Mom, lesson learned.

But if that didn't totally scare you off, here's a list of props and ideas for creating your own Build-a-Car Auto Shop Dramatic Play theme at home or in the classroom...

Possible Props & Materials:

  • cash register
  • play money
  • receipt book
  • toy phones, walkie talkies or calculator "phones"
  • writing materials
  • key chains, old keys
  • construction helmets
  • mechanic uniforms (old t-shirts, aprons or lab coats)
  • work gloves
  • goggles
  • tools, toy and real
  • clip boards for customer orders and appointment books (either printed or created by you)
  • scooter boards 
  • traffic cones
  • funnels
  • plastic tubing 
  • nuts and bolts
  • tool boxes
  • magazines (or transportation themed books for early readers) and chairs for a waiting room
  • old computer or keyboard
  • toy cars

Loose Parts for Building and Repairs
  • cardboard boxes in a variety of sizes
  • cardboard scraps
  • recycled plastic containers
  • cardboard tubes
  • paper plates
  • bungee cords
  • zip ties
  • pipe cleaners
  • plastic straws
  • recycled bottle caps and pouch caps
  • velcro strips
  • empty tissue boxes
  • Art & Craft Materials (paint, markers, crayons, masking tape/tape, scissors, hole punchers, metal brads for attaching wheels)
  • stickers, tissue paper, paper scraps, wrapping paper, cellophane, tin foil
S engineered a submarine! 

I guess our auto shop can service a variety of transportation modes!
Car Wash & Detail Props
  • fluids, soap, oil (I used plastic travel bottles with colored water and oil, sealed shut with duct tape)
  • empty spray bottle
  • paint rollers
  • paint brushes
  • utility bucket
  • empty paint cans
  • paint chips
  • squeegees
  • sponges
  • microfiber cloths and/or mitts
  • water*
  • shaving cream* 
*After the boys' little indoor "experiment," I did promise them an outdoor opportunity to have a car wash. We will probably wash our actual cars this week and also do a smaller scale shaving cream and water car wash for some toy cars.

You can pick and choose materials from the lists above that you have on hand, add in your own ideas and build/create many of your own props. Better yet, have the kids build and create their own props! Even before I released the cardboard box collection, the boys were already busy building cars out of chairs and empty laundry baskets.  You can add in building toys to the scene as well. Gears, tinker toys, and blocks of all kinds would be great to supplement. Recycled materials work just as well and somehow really spark the kids' imagination.

Here are some Play Extension Ideas to take it further:
  • Collaborate together to build a larger scale car using a big cardboard box and other loose parts. This process can include drawing/writing out plans and measurements (for a literacy and math component), actual construction of the car (STEM/building activities), painting and decorating the car (art) and using it in play afterward (dramatic play)
  • Gather or check out some favorite transportation themed books from your local library and use them in an auto shop themed story stretcher
  • Take it outdoors! Use sidewalk chalk to create your own roads and city or neighborhood (writing/pre-writing). Use cones and other visual aids to create an obstacle course and have kids ride bikes or scooter boards (gross motor skills and safety). 
  • While you're outside, get some soapy water and shaving cream and have your own car wash for toy cars, riding toys or your actual car!
  • Take a theme related field trip to the car wash.
  • Make a gas station using a recycled laundry detergent container and plastic tubing and fill 'er up!
  • Older kids might enjoy the challenge of building and testing model cars. There are a variety of kits for this in craft supply and hobby stores that target a variety of ages and abilities.
  • Paint with toy cars! Dip some toy cars in your favorite colors of washable paint and drive them across the paper for some great prints and designs. When you're done, it's a great time to open up the toy car wash and get them cleaned up and ready for play.
  • Playdough with toy cars--those tires can make some great tracks in playdough, slime or kinetic sand.
Check out some of our other transportation themed activities for more ideas and, as always...

Happy Playing!

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