5 Tips to Help Children With Pretend Play

admin / October 2, 2017


Many children love to play pretend and create elaborate imaginative settings and characters.  Some children may need a little extra help to expand their make believe play skills.  Here are 5 simple tips to help your child or student develop pretend play scenarios:

1.  Ask questions about what the children are playing?  This will encourage the children to effectively communicate about what they are pretending.  In addition, it gives you an peek inside a young child’s thought processes. 

2.  Participate in the play.  Once the child has explained the scenario join in at their level – sit on the floor or small chair and get into “character” ie restaurant customer, patient, pet owner, etc.  

3.  Role model pretend play.  Once you are in “character” display appropriate behavior and conversation related to the theme.  Pretend to eat the play food, talk on a play telephone or check the next patient.  This allows the child to observe other play scripts to add to their scenarios.

4.  Offer suggestions if needed.  If a child seems stuck on advancing the scenario offer some suggestions of how they could expand the pretend play.  Maybe suggest different characters or different ways to use objects.  Remember to just suggest not force changing the scenario.  Sometimes children have an extensive play script in their minds. Follow their lead whenever able.

5.  Provide ample time and different environments for pretend play.  With children, pretend play can take place over hours, days and even weeks.  My daughter and I have been playing that we are orphans for weeks.  A few months ago, she was the school teacher and I was the student. Vary the environment, playing pretend outdoors brings a whole new experience.  Read here about 5 Outdoor Imagination Activities.


Need visual prompts or suggestions for pretend play?  Check out the most popular pretend packet – Doctor and Hospital.  The Hospital and Doctor packet includes 22 forms and signs to play pretend hospital and doctor.  Included are waiting room signs, check in desk, insurance cards, appointment 
cards, emergency forms, plan of care, nursery forms and more!  Kids of all ages will love this packet to take playing pretend a step further.  FIND OUT MORE.

Reference:  Marna Winter & Heidi Hollingsworth (2015) Promoting Pretend Play in the
Preschool Years: Teacher Practices and Strategies for Involving Families, Childhood Education,
91:3, 182-189, DOI: 10.1080/00094056.2015.1047309

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