10 Ways to Explore Dramatic Play

Dramatic play (or pretend play) provides many benefits to your child.

According to an article on Scholastic Parents, The Importance of Pretend Play, pretend play helps with cognitive development in such areas as social and emotional skills, language skills, and thinking skills.

And, in additional to all the wonderful benefits, dramatic play is something most kids enjoy!

Here are ten ways to explore dramatic play:

1. Act out a book. Pick a familiar story and have kids act it out. My girls love to act out the Three Little Pigs. Ready, Set, Read provides a basket full of props to help act out classic fairy tales. She includes several examples of baskets she’s created.

2. Provide a fun pretend play set-up. I set up a snack bar for my girls to play with. We also set up a jewelry store. The possibilities for this sort of play are endless. Think about your child’s current interests. Do they love to help you in the kitchen? Then, set up a pretend-play kitchen area. Do they love to play doctor? Then, set up a hospital or a vet clinic. De Tout et de Rien has many good ideas for this. Check out their paper blood transfusion set-up. (Just a note, De Tout et de Rien is written in French, but please do not let that deter you. She has installed a translator for your benefit!)


3. Make puppets. Puppets are both fun to make and fun to play with. The Nature of Grace shows you how to make easy wooden spoon family puppets and even provides ideas for how to use them.

4. Play dress-up. It’s easy to lose yourself in dramatic play when you’re dressed for the part. You can find inexpensive items for dress-up at a thrift store or even go through your closet. There may be clothes hanging in there that you no longer wear, but would be perfect for dress-up play. Childhood Beckons wrote a wonderful post with plenty of ideas for dress-up items.

5. Combine sensory play and pretend play. It will make the pretend play seem just a bit more realistic! Use dirt and construction toys to bring a construction site to life. We brought in snow, made a few ice blocks and created an Antarctica scene.


6. Have fun with small world play. Help you kids set up a scene for small toys or dolls to play in. They can experience and learn with dramatic play on a small scale. Creative With Kids set up a pretend party scene for their monkeys in a barrel. At Home with Ali made a fun miniature campsite.
7. Use music. There are many songs that are perfect for acting out. Use a song with actions or one that tells a story. She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain is a favorite at our house. (Here’s a great video that shows the combination of singing plus actions for a fun dramatic play experience.) Encourage you’re children to sing, dance and do actions. Make sure you join in and have fun!
8. Make and use masks. It’s easy to pretend you’re someone or something else when you put on a mask. We love to make masks and and transformed ourselves into both tigers and panda bears. It’s always a fun way to spend a day.
9. Use blocks and loose parts to set the scene. Will your children build roads or a castle? Either way they’re setting up a scene that will provide hours of pretend play. Brick by Brick has many good examples of this. Here they made a zoo. And here they added tools to the block area to create a construction site experience.
10. Above all else, make it accessible and easy for your kids to enjoy dramatic play. Put the dress up clothes where your kids can get to them whenever it strikes their fancy. Have a box of loose parts always available so they can create and pretend. Childhood Beckons has a wonderful example of a dress-up corner that’s easy to put together and doesn’t take up much room.

*Bonus Activity: Go outside! My girls have so much fun with dramatic play outdoors. It’s so easy to grab a stick and turn it into a magic wand. They’ve traveled to the moon, through a forest, and even to a magical fairy-tale kingdom without even leaving our backyard.

What is your kid’s favorite form of dramatic play?

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Terri is a writer and mom of two elementary-aged girls. She has a passion for learning and is always looking for ways to make learning fun. You can find her at Better Than Homework where she shares fun learning activities or Creative Family Fun where she shares art, craft, and family fun ideas.

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