10 Tips For Setting Up An Apple Orchard Dramatic Play Center

10 Tips For Setting Up An Apple Orchard Dramatic Play Center

Fall has finally arrived, and I couldn't be more excited! After all our back-to-school activities, my preschoolers and I always dive into apple-related themes. This year, I wanted to create an apple orchard dramatic play center.

I'll be honest – I've scoured Pinterest and seen these absolutely incredible dramatic play setups that demand a significant amount of preparation. While I deeply admire the teachers who craft intricate butcher paper trees and elaborate scenes, I must admit I'm not that teacher. I'm more of a print, cut, and set-up kind of person.

So, if you're like me and in search of a relatively straightforward apple orchard dramatic play center that won't require a dozen trips to the craft store, keep reading. This blog post is tailored just for you!

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Tip #1: Start With Story Time 

While the concept of an apple orchard might not be new to you, it is probably very new to your preschool learners. So to help introduce the concept of our apple themed dramatic play center, I start with a read aloud about apples and apple orchards. You can find a ton of books at your local library but here are three of my favorite read alouds:

  1. From Apple Trees to Cider Please
  2. Apple Farmer Annie
  3. Ten Red Apples


Apple Theme Preschool Books




Tip #2: Make Your Own Apples

I wanted a ton of apples to add to my play center, but I did not want to spend a ton of money. So, instead I decided to DIY my own little apples. 

I crumpled a piece of paper into a ball, wrapped it in felt, and secured it with a clear rubber band. Are these apples Pinterest worthy? Not really, but let me tell you, they stood up to play, were budget-friendly to create, and the kids absolutely loved them.

Just make sure you get soft felt, instead of the the stiff felt. I like to get sheets at Micheals.  


Tip #3: Use Photo Stands To Create An Apple Orchard

As I mentioned, I lean towards simple setup methods. Instead of spending hours crafting construction paper trees, I opted for an easier solution – I printed them! And the biggest tip I have for you is to head to your local dollar store and snag various sizes of clear photo stands. I rely on these stands for all my pretend play arrangements because they make displaying signs a breeze.

Apple Tree Printable for an Apple Orchard Dramatic Play Center

After laminating the signs (or trees, in this case), I attach double-sided tape to the photo stand and secure it on the outside. These little apple trees are not only adorable but I can move them around as needed.


Tip #4: Label Everything

Labels are essential when creating a dramatic play space. Especially when you are wrapping felt around crumpled paper to create "apples." Labels will help take the stress off of finding exactly play item allow for you to pretend! Because sometimes we use play dough tubs and call them apple muffins, and you know what the kids don't mind one bit!

Apple Stand Dramatic Play Labels

Other than the fact that labeling everything helps you save money on buying pretend items for each center, it also promotes literacy with your students. Which at the end of the day is our real goal.   


Tip #5: Laminate Everything

Should this tip go above the label everything? Maybe. But if you have yet to invest in a laminator, this if your sign to spend $30 bucks on one. I got mine at Walmart years ago and it still works great. But this is the same one and you can grab it on Amazon:

Scotch Laminator

Why laminate? One, it will allow all your pretty signs and labels to stand up to play. Two, you can easily store the labels and signs for another day so you won't have to prep everything again if you choose to set up the play center next year. 



Tip #6: Prompt Play With Learning Centers

Sometimes, the kids need a little guidance when they are playing the apple orchard. So, I created an activity encourages the kids to fill their baskets with apples, much like they would at a real orchard. And as a bonus I got to sneak in some additional learning.

Apple Orchard Dramatic Play Center
Apple Orchard Apple Counting Center For Preschool

I organized an apple orchard table with my photo stand apple trees, a bin full of felt apples, and the "Build a Basket" activity sheet. While most of the children were playing with the market stand, I pulled one student at a time to participate in the basket-building activity.

Counting Apple Preschool Activity

Each child selected three apple number cards and placed them on the sheet. They then filled their baskets with the appropriate color and number of apples. Some kids wanted to do this in this activity over and over, while others engaged a couple of times before returning to open play. Either way, I utilized this activity to assess their skills and to foster counting and color recognition development.


Tip #7: Create An Apple Shop

When I was looking for apple themed dramatic play centers, I noticed that most people set up either an apple shop or an apple orchard, but I wanted both!

Apple Shop Dramatic Play Center Preschool

I adore creating shop areas in our pretend play zone. A shop naturally facilitates important skills like communication, counting, sorting, and more. I used my Melissa and Dough market stand and once I added all my signs and labels the apple shop was ready to go! 

Preschool Dramatic Play Center: Apple Shop

Once everything was arranged, I allowed the kids to lead the way. They could assume the role of the employee, the customer, or simply engage in imaginative play – it's entirely up to them.



Tip #8: Work On Math Skills By Using Play Money

One of the easiest ways you can work on counting with your preschool learners is by adding pretend play money to your dramatic play center.

Not only does it promote real world skills of using money to purchase items, you can easily practice math skills at whatever level your students are at. Want to work on basic rote counting? Have each item cost $1 for basic counting skills. Are your kids a little older? Then work on adding and subtracting larger numbers!

Pretend Play Money Apple Theme



Tip #9: Get The Kids Involved With Price List and Daily Deals

This tip piggy backs off of using play money. But if you want your kids to use the play money, they might need to know the prices.

The first way I encouraged using play money is by printing out a price list. The kids really wanted to circle the items on the list, so I gave them a dry eraser to do so. They then filled their basket with the circled items and paid with their apple money!

Pretend Play Printable For Preschool: Apple Prices

The second option is for the kids to create their own "Deal of the Day" laminated the deal sheet and the apple item cards. Then added velcro dots to both the sign and cards. The kids could create their own daily deals which really helped them feel like they were employees at the apple shop! 

Deal of the day preschool dramatic play center printable



Tip #10: Prompt Play With Tasks

I keep the activity cards close by, and whenever play slows down or a toddler arguments erupts over who gets to play with the green felt apple (if you know, you know), I direct them to the apple activity sign. I select an apple activity and place the card on the sign. Tasks include picking apples, serving customers, making applesauce, and more. These activities not only spur play but also encourage collaboration toward a shared goal, rather than fighting over a felt apple.

Apple Activity

Their favorite apple activity was the cider station. I filled a pitcher with rainbow rice and set out a few cups. Students could pour "cider" into the cups and serve their friends. If you choose this activity, try to contain the mess in a sensory bin (though I must admit, the mess was barely manageable for my students, and rainbow rice ended up everywhere – thank goodness for my trusty vacuum).

Apple Cider Station: Preschool Dramatic Play Center Idea



Now It's Your Turn!

Now that you see how easy it can be for you to set up both an apple orchard and apple shop dramatic play center, it's time for you to start prepping it for your little learners! And the best part is that I created all the printables to share with you! Fine all the signs, labels and learning centers in this dramatic play pack:

Apple Orchard Dramatic Play Preschool Printable Set


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