What is Pretend Play & why is it important?

Apr 07, 2021Andrea Cummerfield
Around 18 months of age onwards, you might see your child start to use an object or toy to act out a situation. This could be as simple as them using an empty cardboard box and pretending it’s a boat, or maybe using a toy first aid kit to be a doctor or nurse, or some imaginary food to create a tea party.

These are all examples of pretend play which is also known as creative play, make-believe or imaginative play. 

Pretend Play is a natural play that your child will engage in and is simply picked up just by adult modelling and being around other children.  Pretend Play is a great way to help your child learn and helps build the following developmental skills in your child:

  • Language Skills – pretend play helps a child understand language and how to use words to help re-enact a situation. Often we’ll hear our child mimic words & phrases that they’ve learnt from us!
  • Social and Emotional Skills – through cooperative play, our children learn to share, take turns and also how to solve problems. Pretend play also helps build empathy and see the world from different views.
  • Thinking Skills – Acting out scenarios calls upon upon cognitive skills to help solve problems, whether it is how to build something or how to take an object and turn it into something else.

What does a child need for pretend play? 

To encourage pretend play, it is helpful to have a few different pretend play toys or resources on offer to help them re-create situations and invoke creativity.  We suggest a variety of resources & toys so your child can choose what is most suited to them and their role play scenario.

Some of our favourite resources that are often on hand at home for pretend play include:

  • Large cardboard boxes - Make a house, a kitchen, a play area – the use for these is endless!
  • Old clothes, hats, shoes
  • Stuffed animals and dolls
  • Cooking utensils, dishes, food containers

There is also a fantastic range of toys available for pretend play which your child can use to be a doctor, a builder, put out fires, cook, play Mums or Dad.

Watching a child engage in pretend play can be fascinating and a wonderful reminder of how open and creative a child’s mind can be!


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