Pretend play teaches your child to interact with other people more than any other type of play. It also enables your child to express emotions that they cannot yet articulate – perfect for letting off steam. It is between two and three years that your child really begins to enjoy ‘let’s pretend’.

Dressing up

Offering your child dressing up kit is a great way to inspire their imagination and help them enjoy roleplay. Some experts think your child should take the lead in all types of play. So dig out old clothes such as work shirts, dresses, tops, bags and hats and let them choose what they like. And of course you can buy fantastic costumes that let your child become their favourite character and live out their dreams of space travel, princess parties or whatever they like. Playing at home is even more exciting when you’re a pirate or a fairy!

Riding and climbing

Your two-year-old will gain strength and coordination from physical play, as well as really enjoying the freedom and fun of dashing around. Offering them big toys to climb on, crawl through or run around is a great way for your child to act out pretend play. They can ‘drive’ a chair, ‘sail’ a washing basket, or explore a cardboard box cave. Pop-up play tents and tunnels, sit-in cars or trikes and other big toys are excellent for inspiring active pretend play.

Bringing toys to life

Many children develop a special affection for a particular soft toy. You can encourage your child to enjoy pretend play by offering them props to help them share their day with their favourite toy. A shoebox and a tea towel can be a bed for the toy to sleep in when its tired, a plastic bowl and spoon and empty cup are perfect for the toy to enjoy a meal, and when you go out your child can show their toy all the interesting things they find. This helps your child’s imaginative skills, is good for encouraging talking and also helps your child experience looking after something – albeit inanimate. (And soft toys are much easier than real pets!)

This play idea is great for...

  Social skills
Learning to enjoy pretend play, playing with small characters or caring for a favourite toy stand your child in good stead for making friends and playing co-operatively as they grow.
  Imaginative play
Exercising their growing imagination helps your child think creatively, begin to understand the world and express their feelings in a safe and secure setting.
  Building confidence
Enjoying pretend play is a great start to making positive friendships. Making toys talk or make sounds helps with communication skills, which are crucial for making friends.