As your toddler grows through their second year, they’ll discover the joy of pretend play. By inspiring and joining in your child’s pretend play, you’re helping them learn how the real world works – and showing them how much fun using their imagination can be.

Characters in your hand

At this age, your toddler can begin to explore chunky fist-sized toys, such as people, animals, trains and cars. These small toys are good for honing fine motor skills, and will help your child develop their growing imagination. At this age, your child won’t play cooperatively with children the same age, but they can collaborate with you or an older child. Your child can understand much more than they can say, and they’ll enjoy hearing you ‘commentate’ as you play together. You can show your child how to move the characters, give them voices and sounds (like ‘chuff chuff’ or ‘woof!’), and help your toddler name them. At this stage your child might call sets of different objects the same name – so all vehicles might be ‘car’ or ‘tain’, and all animals might be ‘dog’.

Teddy and me

You can make everyday life even more fun for your toddler by encouraging them to use their imagination and look after a toy as you look after them. You can sit a favourite teddy or doll at the table and invite your toddler to help them drink from an empty plastic cup or eat from a plastic spoon. While you cook your child’s tea, they can ‘cook’ too (at a safe distance from anything hot of course) with a wooden spoon and play saucepan

Just like Mum or Dad

If your child enjoys sharing their day with a favourite doll or animal, you can encourage them to ‘bath’ their toy in their old empty baby bath (or the washing basket), or take their doll out in a toy pushchair while you push their pushchair. Perhaps they’ll have a pretend chat on the phone to their friends at the same time – or pretend to text them! Bedtimes can be easier too if Teddy is ever so tired and wants to go to sleep now...

This play idea is great for...

  Learning to talk
Bringing small toys to life, making animal noises, engine sounds and babbling nonsense (like grown-ups on the phone perhaps?) are a great boost for your toddler’s talking skills.
  Imaginative play
Playing with small characters, dressing up and caring for a special soft toy are an excellent start to ‘pretend play’, which your child will enjoy and benefit from as they grow.
  Building confidence
Children who use their imagination develop their thinking skills and find it easier to form good friendships. So enjoying pretend play is a great confidence boost as your toddler grows into a child.