Toddlers and Imaginary Play

Location: Indoor or out

Promotes: Cognitive development

Props: A cardboard box and old clothes for starters (additional props are optional, depending on the type of play you intend to suggest) 

How to play
Help your toddler or preschooler fly like a superhero with pet tigers, all without leaving the safety of his bedroom. It’s easy to feed your toddler’s imagination through simple props and toys. All you have to do is skip the bells and whistles and go for old-school objects. For example, a giant cardboard box can become a rocket ship or even a makeshift canoe.

Old clothes add another fun dimension to pretend play: They can be transformed into any number of things, like a doctor’s uniform or a businessman’s outfit.

Tricks and advice

Resist the urge to become too involved or fact-driven in your toddler’s pretend play routine. The essential idea behind imaginary play is that it allows your child to let his imagination roam.

If you’d like to help him develop new ways to pretend, try giving him a simple suggestion or genre of play, then let him take it from there. For example, you could suggest that he pretend he’s just received some happy news. Ask him how he would react and then let your toddler take it away.

Another fun idea is to come up with an alternative story line for your toddler’s favorite movie or book. Part of this toddler play would involve coming up with new characters and plotlines. You could even write down the new story as you act it out, adding additional developmental skills to his playtime.

Whatever you offer, keep it as simple as possible, and follow your child’s lead to get the most out of the play.

Learning and growing

Imaginary worlds allow toddlers to try out different outcomes and organize their emotions based on those outcomes. Pretend play is a great way for your child to act out make-believe scenarios and practice reactions that can then be reapplied in real life. Encourage your child to continue with his imaginary play by introducing new props from time to time.