Did you know that by age one, children can begin to use their imagination to recreate what they have seen in their environment or come up with new ideas in their pretend play? Whether it involves gently soothing a baby doll, pretending to cook in their play kitchen, or pretending to be a firefighter putting out a fire, pretend play can help foster your child’s physical, emotional, social & language skills. Here are some ways you can help facilitate and enrich pretend play at home:

Provide Props: Keep a box of miniature dishes, measuring cups, and pots and pans in the kitchen so your child can play as you are cooking. Provide baby dolls or other pretend people that they can animate as they play. Other props such as dress up clothes and blocks are also helpful, but remember – less is more – simple props promote the use of imagination.

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Let them Initiate: If your child invites you into their play, join in! Get dressed up in costume, play along in whatever scenario they have created, and make comments relevant to their play (e.g., “This tea is delicious!”). Resist the urge to ask questions such as, “What color is this cup?” or “How many plates do you have?” with the ulterior motive of targeting more academic skills.

Help them Sequence: Support your child in sequencing multiple steps in their pretend play. Here are some examples:

  • At the fire station: first they put on their jacket, then they get the hose, last they spray the fire out.
  • With a baby doll: first they feed the baby, then they rock the baby, last they put the baby in the bed. Start with 2 steps and build up to 3 or 4.
  • In the kitchen: first they mix the ingredients, next they pour the ingredients in the pan, then they put the pan in the oven, last they eat!

Get it in Writing: For children ages 2+, offer to write down their imaginary scenarios and then read it together before bed. This will show your child how much fun it is to come up with ideas and then express them through reading and writing, which is a great way to promote literacy skills.


Benefits of Pretend Play:

  • Provides a place for your children to express worries and test out emotions in a safe way
  • Builds confidence that allows him/her to be available to learn and absorb facts about the world.
  • Develops an understanding of the behavior of others as he/she takes on different roles
  • Helps to refine language skills as the child begins to narrate his/her own play

Here’s an article from Parents Magazine about the benefits of pretend play!