What Every Parent Should Know About Pretend Play

pretend play boy in a box

As your child grows, he or she will go through several different stages of play. They will spend the most time in the Preoperational Stage, which begins around age two and goes through age seven. During this developmental stage, your child will engage in dramatic play, including making up games and taking on fantasy roles. Role playing is an important aspect of language and cognitive development, so as parents it's important to provide your child with the tools to expand these skills.

Preschool Dramatic Play and Language

As a Speech-Language Pathologist, I absolutely love watching and listening to a child's language growth, during preschool dramatic play. Their use of creativity and imagination is amazing. You will enjoy listening to your child go from speaking in short phrases to full sentences, as they develop characters and play themes.

Did you know…

  • This is an important time for children to play with children their own age. They learn problem solving and sharing skills through their play.
  • Children grow their vocabulary while discussing play ideas and different scenarios with their peers.
  • Parents can encourage their child's thinking skills by asking them thoughtful questions.

Parents often ask me suggestions for toys that encourage language development. My answer always is “Think simple”. The less noise a toy makes the better it is to spark imagination and language. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love the learning that occurs with electronic learning toys, but it is also important to teach your child how to play with toys that require imagination (not batteries).

With a little creativity of your own, you will be amazed at the play schemes you can set up for your child with objects you have around the house. Choose topics that seem to interest your child and set up toys that will encourage them to develop an entire play scheme. Your child will love having fun with a few props, your guidance, and a lot of imagination. You can also invite another child over and watch the magic of learning unfold.

boy on stack of books

Does your child love to draw, color, and read books? Help your child play “school”. Materials around the house: Set up a play school with a calculator, ruler, a doll or stuffed animal, a few books, blank sheets of paper, pencils, dry erase board and markers, and a bell. 


little girl in box
Image via one tiny spark, Flickr

Is your child obsessed with airplanes or trains? Build a play train, airplane, or car and pretend to go on a trip.

Materials around the house: Create a vehicle with chairs, an object shaped like a circle to use as the steering wheel (Frisbee or cut out from cardboard), blankets, suitcases and/or bags for luggage, dolls or stuffed animals for passengers, large box.

girls playing doctor

Is your child afraid of the dentist or doctor? Role play the scenario. Materials around the house: Help your child practice an appointment using dolls and stuffed animals, medical tape, band-aids, toilet paper (to use for wrapping up injuries), a small notepad, and a small doctor kit bag to put all of the tools in. 


Does your child love to build Legos and blocks? Encourage construction play by decorating and building tall towers with boxes.

Materials around the house: Take block play big with large empty boxes, tape, markers, crayons, stickers.

Are you looking for some more ideas? There are so many more preschool dramatic play ideas on Pinterest. What are your child's favorite toys for encouraging imaginative play?

{Related: Five Toys For Toddlers that Integrate the Ipad}

Read More

What do you think?

What Every Parent Should Know About Pretend Play

Mindi is a working mom with three boys ages 4, 2, and an infant (born June 2013). She spent her first 8 years of her career in Speech-Language Pathology at a Children's Hospital. She currently works with adults and children in home health. The real fun for her happens when she is at home with her boys, chasing them around and pretending to be a super hero. She blogs about life as a working mom at Simply Stavish. Her weekly feature, Words in the Sand, teaches parents how to grow their child's s ... More

Tell us what you think!


  1. Vfgfaithtmt says:

    My daughter who is 5 is very imaginative. She loves playing house the most and her barbies. When she plays by her self she is so adorable! I just here her talking away with her barbies or whatever toy she is playing with. Only problem is when with kids her age she tends to boss saying no you do this or that. She won’t let the other kid be their selves in what they want to say or do when they play pretend. Trying to get her out of that!

  2. EbyMom says:

    my son loves entering inside empty cartons pretending its a car or wateva goes on in his mind.

  3. I love all the ideas, except the legos. Those things hurt to step on but ill probably still end up having them.


EverydayFamily.com Week-by-Week Newsletter

Receive weekly updates on your pregnancy or new baby’s development as well as Free Stuff, Special Offers, Product Samples, Coupons, Checklists and Tools you can use today, and more from EverydayFamily! Plus all new members are entered to win FREE diapers for a year! Receive weekly updates on your pregnancy or new baby’s development as well as Free Stuff, Special Offers, Product Samples, Coupons, Checklists and Tools you can use today, and more from EverydayFamily! Plus all new members are entered to win FREE diapers for a year!

Due Date or Baby's Birth Date

By clicking the "Join Now" button you are agreeing to the terms of use and privacy policy.

Send this to a friend