I always thought playing pretend came naturally to young kids, so I was surprised when my own children looked to me to guide them through it. (Please tell me I'm not the only one who has experienced this??) Curious, I did a little research and learned that pretend play helps kids build language skills, gain awareness, learn about different perspectives, and develop empathy and creativity. I was eager for them to dive in, but how to make it happen? I turned to the best sources I know – moms and preschool teachers – and I’m happy to share their top five tips for firing up your kids’ imaginations:
- Getting them started can be as simple as a story.
If your kids seem stalled from the get-go, try reading them a story or creating one of your own. As long as you’ve got a who (characters), a what (“Once upon a time...”) and a where (setting), they’ll have a great place to start.
- Props, props and more props!
So your kids now have the basics of a story, but they’re still on pause? Inspire them with props! Try a dollhouse, dolls of any kind, cars, roads (try a little tape on the floor), egg crates, cardboard boxes – you’ll be impressed by how they think outside (and inside!) the box – pads of paper or even couch cushions.
- Help bring the characters to life with costumes.
No shopping necessary – you don’t need to look further than your own closet! Anything from aprons, hats, work gear, gloves and old dance costumes to jewelry, glasses, purses, and suitcases help kids slip into someone else’s shoes (shoes are great, too!).
- Now, slowly slip out of the room...
Once your kids get going, give them space to think and play freely. You’ll be amazed by how creative they can be and how much fun they’ll have, too. You might also enjoy some free time to get things done.
- Don't stress about the mess.
Do, however, give them a heads up that you'll have a big clean up party (with music?) at the end. If you limit the play to one area and make sure their markers, glue and other art supplies are washable, you shouldn’t need any elbow grease.
Storytime Toys creates a line of dollhouses based on fairytales and fun everyday places. See why our toys make great foundations for pretend play.