As a kid, have you ever sprinted around the house imagining yourself to be a superhero? Have you ever worn your mother’s makeup and acted like your school teacher teaching your soft toys a new poem? We have all indulged in pretend play in our childhood where we imagined ourselves to be something or someone else and recreated scenarios imagined in our heads.
Pretend play is one of the best ways to keep a child engaged. Besides, it helps with their mental and physical development. Here are a few pretend play ideas for kids so you can encourage your child to indulge in pretend play more often.
When Do Kids Start Pretend Play?
Babies aged one to two years start showing the first signs of pretend play as they imitate the actions of adults they see around them. When toddlers reach three years, their thinking and imagination skills develop, and they learn to use regular objects as symbols (1) (2). Apart from gestures, they now try to talk or pick up peculiar behavior that they notice in adults.
Benefits Of Pretend Play For Kids
Pretend play is highly beneficial for a child’s mental and physical growth. The following are some reasons why you must encourage your child some to pretend play.
- Linguistic skills: Pretend play helps a child develop linguistic skills (3). When children imitate adults, they use words and phrases that adults usually use. As they reenact scenarios with their friends and use these words and phrases, they learn to make a connection between written and spoken language (4).
- Problem-solving skills: When children imitate adults and imagine themselves in certain situations, they learn how to adjust and react like adults. For instance, if they are playing a game in which two children want to play the role of their teacher, they will have to find a solution to continue playing the game (5).
- Social skills: Pretend play helps children develop social skills and explore complex social ideas (6). For instance, if your child has taken up the role of a superhero and their friends are evil enemies, they will have to learn how to allocate characters to each one and remember to allow every child to become a superhero, and know how to react to others’ actions.
30 Pretend Play Ideas For Kids
Here are some ideas that will engage your child in pretend play.
1. My tiny house
Using pieces of cardboard, build a small house for your little one. You could place a stool inside it so your child can sit comfortably. Create windows and decorate them with curtains using some old cloth. Let your child have their own house and take care of it like an adult.
2. Dr. Dolittle
Get your child a doctor’s playset and some stuffed animal toys. They can wear a white jacket of their choice and pretend to be a veterinarian. Your child can then examine the health of these little animals and prescribe the medicines.
3. Little mailman
Create small colorful envelopes and stick them to a wall in your house. Write a family member’s name on each envelope. You can leave a mock letter in these envelopes, and your child can pretend to be a mailman, delivering each letter to the person to whom the letter belongs.
Your child can become a candy seller while you arrange for fake colorful candies placed in jars. You may act as a customer and ask your child to give you some candies and pay them some fake money. By the end of the game, your child can count their money and buy something from you with the money.
5. The special town
Get your child miniature versions of their favorite superheroes. Paint some old cartons and biscuit boxes and use them as buildings. Now, your child has a new town filled with superheroes who will save the city from the apocalypse.
6. The librarian
If you have a personal collection of books, you can ask your little one to arrange them and lend them to your family members like a librarian. Of course, do not expect them to keep every book in its proper place and accept whatever the librarian gives you to read.
Create small tents with clean bedsheets and scarves. Use cardboard to create a pair of wings, a tiara, and a star wand. Now your little one is a princess of her town, and the citizens have to obey her orders.
Buy a white round cap and a pair of extra-large glasses. Your child can dress in a smart pair of trousers and a shirt. Give them a fake magnifying glass, and let them act like a detective looking for clues to their lost soft toy.
9. Kids market
Has your child ever been to a market? Why not create a market for them at home where they can sell fake vegetables, fish, and meat? You can offer them fake Monopoly money and buy fresh veggies and fish from them. Try to bargain, and see if they lower the price.
You can find tons of plastic kitchenware for kids in the market. Buy one that suits your child. You could also buy some plastic veggies and fruits and a chef’s hat. Allow your child to create their unique food item and relish their fusion dish.
11. Pizza parlor
Cut a round base out of a pizza box. Next, cut the remaining pieces of the cardboard in the shapes of your favorite topping and then color them. Tell your child that you are hungry and want a pizza. Allow your munchkin with a chef’s hat to make a delicious pizza for dinner.
If your child loves playing with mommy’s makeup kit, let them try some makeup themselves. Let them apply makeup from a plastic makeup set and get ready to meet their friends or go shopping.
13. Doctor, doctor
Get a kid’s doctor set and tell them you feel unwell. Let them wear their white jacket and examine you with their stethoscope. Pretend to whine a little when they give you an injection, and take the medicines they prescribe you.
14. Travel play
Arrange some chairs and place a soft toy on each chair. You may take one chair too. Hand your child a pilot’s control wheel or yoke. Tell them they are the pilot of the airplane, and that the toys are passengers. It is now up to the pilot to fly them to any location of their choice.
15. Playdough bakery
If your child loves sweets, let them open their bakery where they can sell cakes and pastries made of colorful play dough. Let them create their own cakes by mixing ingredients of their choice.
16. Camping at home
Let your little explorer set out camping but in the safety of your home. Bunch up some pillows as mountains and build a kid’s tent in your house where your child can spend some time like a camper. Do not mind if they trek around the house like an actual camper.
17. Office worker
Make a laptop for your child using a cereal box. Next, dress them up in smart formals. Let them sit at their table and work on the laptop the way they see their mommy and daddy work on their computers.
18. Music time
If your child loves music, a kid’s guitar or drum set or even piano will help them get into rock mode. Dress your child in some funky pair of pants and jacket and hand them their favorite musical instrument that they can play and pretend to perform a live concert for you.
19. Speed racer
Create the exterior of a car and a steering wheel using some old diaper boxes. Paint it in the color of your child’s choice. Let your child wear a cool pair of sunglasses and drive their way to the finish line.
20. Little scientist
Your child might need some transparent plastic jars, colorful water, and a measuring cup. Allow your child to become a little scientist in their laboratory by conducting tests with colorful water. Tell them to mix liquids and notice how colors change as a result.
Let your little one sit on a small basket and hand them a kids’ fishing rod. On the floor, scatter some fish cutouts with the letters of the alphabet written on them. Now, tell them to catch the fish of a particular letter. This way, not only will they learn letters but also hone their motor skills.
22. Anytime money
Do you want to teach your child simple calculations? Build an ATM box and place fake money in that box. You can hand a fake card to your child and let them withdraw some money from the ATM. This way, your child can learn numbers.
23. TV Star
Using cardboard, create a box big enough for your child to fit in. Cut out a window on the front. Your child can dress up any way they want and pretend they are on TV. Be the viewer and enjoy their show.
Create elastic cuffs with a symbol of your choice for your child, and tell them it is their superpower. For instance, draw lightning bolts on the cuffs, and tell them they can hit any flying object with those lightning bolts.
25. Tea party
Gather all your child’s soft toys in one room. Ask your child to organize a tea party using some play tea set. Remember to let your child dress up and play a good host to their cute guests.
Tell your child they can fly. Using two old plastic bottles, create a jetpack for your child, and let them wear it on their back. With the jetpack on their back, they can fly to any place in the world.
27. Car wash
Stack a few chairs against each other and hang some clean socks from it. You can tell your child to crawl from under the chairs and cross the train of socks hanging from it. Like car wash, they too get clean and shiny each time they go from under the chair.
Build a home for your children and another home for yourself using mattresses and pillows. The two houses next to each other make you neighbors, and your children can acts as though they own the mattress house where they sleep, eat, and spend time.
29. Child care
Get a toy baby for your child, and ask them to care for them like a parent. They have to feed the toy, bath it, put it to sleep, take it for rides outside, and so on. In short, you are training them to care for a younger sibling if one arrives in the future.
30. Ice cream parlor
You can get your child a play ice cream cart and ask them to serve you an ice cream cone. They can give the cart a name and mix flavors to come up with a new, unique ice cream flavor.
Pretend play is a fun activity with educational benefits for children. It helps them learn about their interests and their abilities. And when they engage in pretend play with other children, they learn to interact. Your child’s imagination is a powerful tool, and you must do anything to give wings to it.
2. Toddlers (2-3 years of age) – Developmental Milestones; CDC
3. Myae Han;Does Play Make a Difference?; How play intervention affects the vocabulary learning of at-risk preschoolers; University of Illinois
4. 4 Benefits of Imaginative Play for Young Children; Horizon Education Centers
5. The benefits of imaginative play; Therapy Focus
6. Social Development in Preschoolers; American Academy of Pediatrics
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