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Incorporating STEM Learning into Dramatic Play

Apr 17, 2024    |   Dramatic PlaySTEM Learning

In early care and learning environments, dramatic play is often a favorite activity for young children. Little ones enjoy an opportunity to make believe and dress up as someone other than themselves.  As educators, we know that when children are engaged in dramatic or pretend play they get to practice important early learning skills, such as empathy, problem solving, communication, and more.  We can also build upon these rich learning experiences by introducing dramatic play themes that incorporate foundational concepts in more academically oriented subjects, like science and math.

In this article we share some examples of science and nature-themed dramatic play centers, with ideas for building on those themes to introduce the children in your care to foundational concepts in science, math, geometry, and more.

Dramatic Play Ideas for ECE Classrooms and Programs

Below, you will find three science and nature-based  dramatic play themes, along with dramatic play-based STEM learning ideas and children’s books you might share  to enhance STEM-focused dramatic play experience. 

Farmer’s Market

A farmer’s market-themed dramatic play center taps into young children’s curiosity about food and farming while offering them opportunities to engage in conversations and interactions that use numbers and mathematical concepts.  To set up a farmer’s market in your classroom, you might arrange small baskets filled with items like pretend fruit, vegetables, eggs, and flowers. By including a pretend cash register or scale, you encourage children to practice their number skills by counting and measuring the items for sale in the market.   

For further learning, pair this activity with the children’s book Edible Numbers: Count, Learn, Eat, a counting-themed book with realistic photos of the different fruits and vegetables that are often found at the farmer’s market.


A garden-themed dramatic play center invites conversations about how plants grow, while offering little learners a variety of engaging sensory experiences.   

Set up your garden with pretend produce, flowers, and dirt, along with tools like shovels, watering cans, and gardening gloves that the children can use to plant and tend to their garden. You can create a place for your garden to grow in a sensory bin with shredded paper or, if you’re feeling crafty, you might even use pool noodles to create rows of crops. 

As children play, you can introduce them to basic mathematical and geometric concepts by talking with them about the shapes and sizes of the fruits and vegetables in the garden: Which fruits are round? Which of these vegetables is larger? You might also discuss foundational scientific concepts about gardening, such as how plants need food, water and sunshine to grow. 

This dramatic play center will pair well with the children’s book, From Seed to Plant, which introduces children to the processes of pollination, seed formation, and germination. The book includes colorful diagrams showing the wide variety of seeds, the process that takes them from seed to plant, and the different parts of a plant.

Under the Sea

Many young children have a fascination with the ocean and life under the sea. A dramatic play theme that explores sea life can be a great way to build on some of their natural interests! Set up your dramatic play area by hanging blue paper (or fabric) on the walls to look like an ocean. Next, add pretend fish and coral and offer the children goggles and pretend cameras for their  under-the-sea adventure! The children will love becoming explorers and discovering different types of marine biology as they learn about the animals that live in the ocean. If you have spare soda bottles on hand, you might use them to make fun DIY scuba gear for children to dress up with! 

This dramatic play center will pair well with the children’s book, A Dive into the Deep, the story of a young girl who explores the depths of the ocean and discovers the amazing and diverse creatures that live within. 

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