Pancake Day holds a special place in my memory; I’d finish school, go straight to Gran’s house and as the afternoon turned into evening, family and friends would share in frying, flipping and eating pancakes.

Now, my husband, son and I live 200 miles away from my grandmother. That hasn’t stopped me from treasuring these little traditions, though. It’ll always be a day I enjoy. So – in the spirit of Pancake Day – I’ve decided to create a role-play activity for my little one. Here are a few ideas for Pancake Play!

Why Role-Play?

There’s a strong link between Pretend Play and children’s mental and emotional development. By its very nature, role-play encourages problem solving; from fitting toys into the right sized boxes, sharing food at a tea-party or posting mail through a narrow space, role-play requires creative thought. It requires a solution, concentration and resilience. Role-play is the perfect way to develop Little One’s problem solving skills for the real world.

The Parents’ Role

When you first set up your role-play or Small World Play, it’s important to get involved. Children learn by looking and following the world around them. When Pancake Play begins, your little one will observe you. How does Dad play the role? How is he using the play props? From the ideas of others, our children create their own characters, their own creative solutions, their own little worlds.

Before you play any of the below role-play ideas, why not make and eat some pancakes with your little one? Our favourite recipe is:

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of milk to create a creamy consistency
  • A squeeze of lemon for flavour

– Pancake Play (age range 2 years – rising 6s) –

 Let’s Play 1 – Pancake Play!

 What you will need:

  • Lemon-yellow playdough (recipe can be found below).
  • Lemon Zest

Our favourite (lemon) playdough recipe:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 table spoons oil
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 table spns Cream Tartar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • Lemon essence
  • Yellow food colouring

 –  Pre-writing, Language, Sensory and Imaginative Play –

Begin by explaining that you’re going to make pretend pancakes out of your ball of playdough. Explain that you’re going to do this without using utensils or any cutlery. Here’s the first challenge, a little problem for your little one to solve: how do we make a round pancake? This role-play is about using your hands to mould, pat and press. Once you’ve made a circle shape with your playdough, why not sprinkle on a topping? Let your little one use lemon zest. It won’t matter if this mixes with the dough, it will simply add to the scent for future plays – yet another sensory experience! Then, sit back and watch them play.

When you’ve finished, leave the playdough in an airtight container. It can last for weeks, particularly at room temperature. Remember to leave the playdough in an accessible place so that your little one can explore Pancake Play whenever they fancy.

Let’s Play 2 – From Pancakes to Circles!

What you will need:

  • Lemon-yellow playdough (try saying that quickly!)
  • Cardboard / plastic cylinders from your re-cycling
  • Cylinder shaped objects suitable for playdough play
  • Frying pan

– 2D, 3D Shape, Hand-eye coordination –

With your playdough, show Little One how you can use the cylinders as cutters. Wow, we’ve made circles! Look at the big circles, look at the small ones – we’ve made lots of pancakes!

Why not take Little One on a cylinder hunt – what else can you find around the house to make pancakes with? How many pancakes can you make? Can you stack them on top of each other? Do they fit into your frying pan? Are they too big, too small or just right?

When you’ve finished exploring pancakes and circles, remember to leave a basket of cylinders and your playdough in an accessible place to inspire your child’s independent play.

Sit back with your coffee and watch!

Let’s play 3 – Flipping Pancakes! 

What you will need:

  • Frying pan
  • 1 felt sheet, cut into circle to fit a frying pan (this is going to be a pancake)
  • 1 foam sheet, cut into a circle to fit a frying pan (this is going to be a pancake)
  • 1 sheet of paper, cut into a circle to fit a frying pan (this is going to be a pancake)
  • Some yellow felt-tip-pens or crayons
  • Lemon-yellow playdough
  • A little bit of flour (so the playdough pancake doesn’t stick)!

 (any materials will do; from fabric, card or paper).

  – Science & Materials, Science & Investigation, Problem Solving, Measurement – 

How will you make sure that your pretend pancake will fit into your frying pan?

Begin by using your yellow felt-tip-pens or crayons and colour in your circular sheet of paper to create your pretend pancake. When you’ve finished, take a guess as to which pancake will be the best flipper and get ready for flipping!

Place each pancake into your frying pan and flip away! What happens? Does the paper pancake float across the room or does it stick to the pan?

This is about playing. It doesn’t matter if you flip or not, can you even catch the pretend pancake in the frying pan? Who can do it best?

Remember to add this to your Pancake Play and sit back and watch them have fun!

Let’s Play 4 – From Pancakes to Lemon-yellow!

–  Colour Recognition, Sorting –

Here, we are creating a collection of yellow objects for a toddler’s colour recognition. To begin, present a little basket and overtime gather a collection of yellow objects from around the house; toy cars, a piece of lego, a teddy bear.

Extend the colour recognition beyond the basket into your everyday life! The colour that you’re focusing on is yellow (like pancakes!) so, in the morning on your way to nursery, ask your little one, ‘How many yellow vehicles can you see on our walk?’ Or, on the way to the shops, ‘How many yellow Daffodils can you see?’ While you’re having lunch ask, ‘Do you know what colour this banana is?’ etc.

Sit back and watch your lemon-yellow collection grow.

Let’s Play 5 – Colourful Pancakes!

 What you will need:

  • A collection of cardboard cylinders from your paper / plastic re-cycling
  • A few cylinder objects (these will be dipped into paint, for printing)
  • Children’s paints (yellow, green, red and blue)
  • 3 shallow containers / trays (to mix paints in)
  • A few paint brushes
  • Plain paper (this will be used for printing)
  • An apron / floor cover.

– Shape, Creative Thought and Colour Mixing –

Squeeze out some yellow paint into three of your shallow containers / trays and ask your little one to add and mix a primary colour into one of the trays. What happens when you add this colour to yellow? What colour can you see now? Do this with all of the primary colours.

Using your cardboard cylinders, dip the base into the paint and create some circle prints.

Lets Play 6 – From Pancakes To Science!

What you will need:

  • A few rectangular A4 sheets of craft card
  • Your children’s book supply

 – Science & Investigation, Problem Solving and Predictions – 

You are going to test the strength of the craft card.

Begin by taking your pieces of A4 paper and, individually, tape the longest sides of the paper together to create 2 cylinders. Can your little one point out the circle shapes in this solid? Explain that you are going to test how strong your A4 paper cylinders are. Put one of the cylinders on its side and ask your little one, ‘How many books do you think this paper cylinder will hold up before it collapses?’ After you’ve both taken a guess, place the first book on top of the paper. Oh no!! What happened? Why? Standing on its end, place the second cylinder on the floor. How many books do you think this cylinder will hold before it collapses? Wow!! What happened. Why?

Create and leave a few more paper cylinders in your Pancake Play space and then sit back and watch them play!

We hope you enjoyed this month’s role-play ideas – happy playing all!