Nurture Box

Role Play - Let Imaginations Run Wild

Role Play - Let Imaginations Run Wild

Pretend Play is such an important part of our child’s development and social learning.  It lets them practise their communication skills, social skills and replay the experiences that they encounter in day to day life.  When they want to play café or shops they are not only repeating what they have seen in real life – but also practising how they can react in that world.


Gender-specific pretend play

It’s so interesting watching girls and boys in pretend play because it is when they tend to start moving into their own interests. This can often reflect what they perceive to be social norms. My son's pretend play often involves us all being tigers in a pack out hunting, while my daughter wants to make me tea and cake from her kitchen play set!  When I do get my son set up with pretend play with him being a shop keeper for example, he really enjoys it!  And we get to practise all the ‘nice and friendly’ communication exchanges that could actually happen at the local butcher or countdown (well hopefully!)  And when I get my daughter to do be a ‘builder’ (which she loves) she thinks it’s a great time.

This reflection of how our children see the world should help us to look at the roles we take in our own family and take time to show our kids that girls are not confined to cooking, cleaning, and child raising, and boys are not delegated all the tasks of fixing things and earning money. 


How can you encourage different areas of pretend play?

Well it is best to start with realistic props. Children still need something which looks close to 'real life' to get started with. As they get into preschool and school-age you can start adding in more abstract toys such as toilet or paper towel rolls, sticks, leaves, etc and get them to pretend play with this as well.

Here are some of our ideas;

Rough and Tumble

Think all things diggers, construction, aircraft and machinery! 

Ideas to do at home:

  • Use Rice, Lentils, Pasta or whatever you have in your house or backyard as construction materials for your machinery to move around.  Create your own building site
  • Rescue Team – Use the machinery, helicopter and others to work as a team to rescue stranded toys hidden around the house or garden!
  • DIY – Get the tool belt on and get making and creating on a project with mum and dad.  Working as a team to make something.

View our Rough & Tumble Gift Box

Kitchen and Café

Play shop, or cook for a pretend family.

Ideas to do at home:

  • Set up Shop:  Set up your till and some cans and packet food from the pantry and get your little one selling!
  • Brilliant Barista: It’s café time and the sets got food, coffee, a till and all things you need to run your own enterprise
  • Fussy Eaters: Get them to pretend make different foods that they may or may not eat. Have them handling real fruit and vegetables alongside their play kitchen.

View our Pretend Play Gift Box

Doctors and Nurses

This is one of our favourite. Have different patients - mummy or daddy may be unwell, what about teddy bear or a doll? Maybe there is a whole waiting room of injured and sick patients to make better? This role play can help a child feel more comfortable with doctor visits, practice their reading and writing, plus start to learn about body parts!

View our 3 Year Old Gift Box


What other role play games do you play with your toddlers and preschoolers?

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