This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure here.
Wouldn’t you love a glimpse into the magical world of pretend? Come along then, here we go! How to Pretend Play in 17 Fun Ways!
Playing is a child’s equivalent to a full-time job. Wouldn’t you agree?
Pretend Play Recap
Read Why Play is Important for Children for a quick definition of pretend play and to see three excellent benefits of teaching children to pretend play.
Now that we are on the same page about the benefits, let’s get some ideas on…
How to Pretend Play in 17 Fun Ways!
As adults we find a job or career path and we seek out opportunities to work in related fields. Often by that point in our lives we have determined what we want to be when we “grow up.”
How did we get to that decision point?
Ideally it was through trial and error. Learning new things and trying out different paths were likely what ultimately led us to our current job.
I doubt there are many firefighters out there that chose to become a firefighter based on a fleeting thought. “I think I’d like to become a firefighter today!”
More than likely they learned all they could previous to deciding to take that particular career path.
Children have (obviously) not reached that point in their life’s timeline. There is so much to be explored!
How do they gain experiences during their growing up years that can help them learn about a whole variety of things?
(What we wouldn’t give now for others to have the expectation that we should be playing all day. Haha)
Dive Into Play!
Here’s a list of things to get you started:
#1 Introduce Unfamiliar/Uncommon Words
There are typically specific words we tend to use on a regular basis. Our children learn these words first and use them often. Seeing as there are oodles (that’s a fun one!) of other words out there, you can use playtime to teach new words! Words such as squirm, pirate, nibbled, etc.
#2 Use the Five Senses
Where possible, engage 1 or 2 of the five senses (see, hear, smell, taste, and touch) into the learning process.
For example: if your word is fragile, you could incorporate an activity carrying a ‘fragile’ egg across the yard as you return from the pretend grocery store. This will give them a chance to see, touch and potentially hear and smell the egg. If it falls and breaks, the sound part could come into play as well as the smell. The lesson may be even more memorable! (Though this is one of those things I wouldn’t encourage tasting;))
#3 Follow Their Lead
If your child has a few toys to choose from, allow them to choose something and then play along. If they choose blocks, play with blocks. If they choose cars, play cars!
Get creative and set up a whole ‘neighborhood’ to navigate through, using both the blocks and cars.
#4 Limit Choices
Sometimes having too many toy options to play with can be overwhelming for a child. Limit the number of toys that are out and available at a time.
(Another bonus is to keep some stored elsewhere and occasionally trade things out– kids love to have fresh “new” toys!)
#5 Talk It Out
Talk while they play. Tell the story of what is happening. “You are filling the truck up with balls, you’re doing a great job! Ahh, now you are going to dump them out over there.”
When you join in on the fun, describe what you are doing with the toy you are playing with. “The baby is hungry so I’m going to give him a bottle.” “The teddy bear is going off to school.”
#6 Doctor’s Office
Let your child dress up and play doctor! You could have a blast helping them work on “patients” (stuffed animals?!) using items such as bandaids, a thermometer, stethoscope, and scrubs (or their version of pajamas).
#7 Dentist’s Office
Similar to the doctor’s office, let your child dress up and play dentist! They will have those teeth cleaned up in no time. Some fun materials to use could include a thermometer, toothbrush, flashlight, and play tools.
#8 Grocery Store Clerk
Provide a notebook or post-it notes and invite your child to write a grocery list. Arrange toy food in separate bins and go “shopping” right out of your own house. Your child will love ringing you up as you’ purchase’ the items you’ve gathered. Swap roles and let them do the shopping while you ring them up!
Dig a little deeper into using a cash register to build skills during pretend play.
#9 Go Camping… in your front room!
Remember those days of building forts and hide-outs with blankets and furniture? Time to bring those days back! I’m sure your child would LOVE to build a fort/tent in your living room.
All kinds of adventures can come from having such a structure. Get the other toys involved as you crawl in and out. Stuffed animals making a home, a garage for cars, bedroom, house, you name it.
#10 Chef in the Kitchen
A toy kitchen with matching accessories is a whole new playground. Children love to mimic your actions in the kitchen. It ranges from stirring a bowl to serving slices of bread and fruit.
There are all kinds of adorable chef’s hats/outfits that would fit right in with this type of play.
# 11 Bus Driver
Gather your kitchen chairs and place them in a row, possibly two in each row. Have one single chair up front where the ‘driver’ can sit. You and/or other children can be passengers as your child takes you on a ride through town.
This could be a fun way to practice visualizing and story telling as they describe the things you are passing. Add a little extra excitement by singing songs as you ‘drive’ around!
#12 Airline Pilot
Strap in for a flight around the city! Let your child wear headphones as they navigate their plane (a cleverly crafted box?!) around the house, flying around objects and making turns just in time.
#13 Mail Carrier
Write letters or draw pictures then put them into envelopes and let your child ‘deliver’ them around the house. Bonus points would be to take them around to neighbors and friends! You could really make it ‘sweet’ and let them deliver a ‘package’ of plate of cookies or other treats along with the envelope.
#14 Firefighter and Police Officer
It seems that at some point in their young lives, many children talk about wanting to be a firefighter or police officer. These are both noble professions!
Both are extra enticing for children to imitate as they are authority figures in the community. Children really enjoy dressing up and acting like them.
This can be a great opportunity to teach your child about the roles of firefighters and police officers and the importance of following instructions from them if/when you come into contact with them.
#15 Good Old Dress Up
Gather old shirts, pants, dresses, and shoes and let your child have at it! You’ll be amazed at the things their minds put together as they outfit themselves in a mixed array of the items you provided.
I remember walking around in my mom’s old heels holding up a dress several sizes too large! My siblings and I had a blast using things from the dress up box.
Did I just see Superman flying down the stairs? Is that Spiderman climbing the wall? Wait, there’s Captain America!
Kids love to dress up like the favorite heroes and go around saving the day. Tie a cape around their neck and let the good times roll!
#17 Work is Play
Give your children a chance to mimic your behaviors. Spice up any chore by making a game out if it.
While you’re sweeping the kitchen, hand them a mini broom and ‘use the force’ to show those crumbs where to go.
Working in the garage? Let them build their own project with a child’s hammer and cardboard box.
How about mowing the lawn? Let your child cut the grass behind you pushing their own mini lawn mower!
Open the Imagination Door
Imagination is a central part of pretend play.
Unlock the power of imagination within your children and help them realize the endless possibilities.
You can BE or DO whatever your mind conjures up!
Keep your camera ready, there will definitely be some great shots to capture as your child explores the magic and power of pretend play!
Discover 4 Fun Ways to Pretend Play with Toys
Learn other ways that Educational Toys Make Learning Fun!