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Pretend Play Ideas for Toddlers

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There are so many pretend play ideas for toddlers out there. A toddler's imagination is a brilliant thing and one of the ways that they learn is through pretend play (sometimes called dramatic play). You're probably already encouraging this kind of play at home, but if you're looking for some ways to extend on the pretend play, we've got some ideas for you. 

pretend play ideas for toddlers and preschoolers

Pretend Play Ideas for Toddlers (that you can do at home) 

Why is pretend play important for toddlers?

Did you know that research has shown that "pretend play and that pretend play in childhood affects the development of creativity in adulthood." There is so much research out there that talks about the benefit of pretend play, especially for the toddler age group. Pretend play can be as simple as pretending to answer a toy phone, or a more complex setup like playing restaurants at home. You'll notice that most toddlers will naturally engage in pretend play but there are ways we can encourage this more. 

Here are just a few of the many benefits of encouraging pretend play for toddlers.  For a more in-depth read about the importance of pretend play THIS article from Psychology Today is worth a read. 

  • Increased language skills - increased vocabulary including expressive and receptive skills
  • Pretend play encourages a child to express their feelings more
  • Taking on different roles allows them to see the world from different perspectives (which leads to an increase in self regulation, communication and empathy) 
  • Pretend play while young sees a correlation with increased imagination, creativity and curiosity as they get older

pretend play ideas for toddlers

How do you encourage pretend play at home?

  • Talk to your child when you are out and explain what is happening while you're in different situations - the shops, the bank, on the bus etc. You'll find that they will naturally start to recreate these scenes in their play. 
  • Read lots of stories! I'm sure you're doing this anyway, but often the pretend play that children naturally engage in replicates the stories that they have been read. Now while you won't see this in younger toddlers immediately, by two and three years old they'll definitely start to do this. If you need some great toddler book recommendations you can find our favorites HERE. 
  • Play with them - pick up the pretend phone, order the pretend food. Join in and get involved! 

Do I need lots of toys to encourage pretend play with my toddler? 

No! While there are some great toys out there, if they are not in your budget don't stress about it. While it's nice to have the gorgeous play kitchen, some pots and pans on a table with some plastic plates will still do the job just as well. If you do want to buy some items 

What pretend play toys do you recommend for toddlers? 

If you are keen to go out and purchase some toys for pretend play, I highly recommend the following 

These are the main two that I would start with and then follow your child's interests to see what else would work. Second hand stores and dollar stores are great places to pick up items for toddler pretend play too. 

Now let's get inspired with these fun at home pretend play ideas for toddlers! If you try one of these, or do an activity of your own I would love to see a photo. Share it on Instagram (tag @myboredtoddler and use #myboredtoddler) or share it in our Facebook Group. 

Pretend play ideas for toddlers at home 

pretend play ideas for toddlers

Popsicle Stick Vanity Set for Pretend Play - Crafts by Ria

Flower Market Dramatic Play - Teaching 2 & 3 Year Olds

DIY Doorway Puppet Theatre - Gluesticks

Pretend Play Hair Salon - Childhood 101

pretend play ideas for kids

Postman Games for Kids - Here Come the Girls

Printable Finger Puppets for Pretend Play - Kiddy Charts

Picnic Pretend Play - Fun with Mama

Easy Glitter Sponge Cakes for Pretend Play - The Craft Train

dramatic play ideas for toddlers

Community Helpers Printable Paper Hats - Totschooling

Bakery Pretend Play Set - Pre-K Pages

Rainy Day Campfire Pretend Play - One Time Though

Pancake Pretend Play - The Imagination Tree

dramatic play ideas for kids

Astronaut Pretend Play - Best Toys 4 Toddlers

Vegetable Garden Pretend Play - No Time for Flash Cards

Alphabet Fishing Activity - Fun Learning for Kids

Laundry Day Pretend Play - The Resourceful Mama

Don't forget to share your own pretend play ideas! Share it on Instagram (tag @myboredtoddler and use #myboredtoddler) or share it in our Facebook Group. 

Some other toddler activities that you might enjoy are: 

Toddler Activities to Do at Home

easy toddler activity ideas that parents can do at home - great activities for toddlers


Playdough activities for toddlers 

16 Playdough activities for toddlers



Saturday 22nd of August 2020

While some of these are great ideas, many of them can be exchanged for real life experiences! Why not have the kids actually help wash real dishes at the sink with a stool/chair, rather than pretend to wash dishes? Why not actually have them help wash and dry and fold clothes, rather than using a pretend cardboard box? Why not host a real tea party with friends or just the family in the backyard, and bake real cupcakes for it?