The Endless Joy of Pretend Play

Sure, taking a doll or dinosaur and stomping it around appears easy enough, but with so many toy options and the boundless imagination many children have, it's time to step up your game. We're talking diving into new worlds, engaging in activities that promote real-life creativity, and learning how to make pretend play work for everyone involved. There are so many ways to do this, from setting a scene to using household objects to getting ingenious toys perfect for tiny hands. No matter which method you choose, make this style of fun part of everyday play.

Set the Scenario

Sometimes pretend play happens organically, especially if you have an imaginative child. But for those times make-believe needs a little push, setting up the scene or situation proves useful. Think draping cloth over the dining room table to make a bear cave or a fort, and then letting everyone pick out their character. Laying out a tea set and pretend food is another great way to get your littles engaging in a pretend picnic or party, complete with all their favorite animals and dolls. Get some colorful bath salts or bubbles and turn the tub into an undersea wonderland, with or without plastic sea creatures. The options are only limited by time and imagination.

Pretend Play Toys

Certain things work wonders for pretend play, such as dollhouses, plastic food and tiny "adult" things like cash registers, phones and doctor kits. The former proves especially great since kids can place furniture and figures however they wish, and then act out life in miniature. For the same reason a pint-sized kitchen lets small minds discover the joy of "cooking" and preparing food for all their loved ones. Also, don't underestimate a box of plastic tools, these are great for "fixing" things in the house or that giant plastic car sitting in the corner.

Use Simple Household Items

While toys certainly add to the fun, you don't need fancy brands to get the imagination going. Make superhero capes out of old clothes. Costume jewelry can deck out a princess or act as buried pirate treasures. Paper towel tubes become spy glasses; dish rags on the floor get new life as lava holes; and any chair, table, blanket and pillow combo easily transforms into a castle, den or secret lair.

How To Play While Doing Real Work

We get it, playing with kids is fun but also exhausting, and when you're home there are other things to get done. Luckily a lot of pretend play is simply reacting to your little ones. Let your kid "feed" you as you type out those emails. It doesn't take a lot of effort to sip a fake cup of tea or exclaim how good that cheese, tomato and pink-circle sandwich is. You can also send your small superheroes out on tasks, such as "collect all the blocks" and "use lightning speed to clean up that dangerous pile of man-eating plastic horses." And if you don't feel great, let the littles make a hospital bed for you and take care of you with their doctor kits and imagination. It's amazing how far a box of Bandaids can go. The best part about pretend play is anything's possible as long as you go along with it.

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