10 Imaginative Play Ideas

Girl playing with dolls in front of dollhouse

It’s tough to overstate the benefits of imaginative play for kids. Regularly engaging in pretend play can help boost kids’ creativity, confidence, vocabulary, social skills, and more. Even though imaginative play comes naturally to kids, it can easily get crowded out of your child’s day by busy schedules, screens, and other forms of entertainment. So the next time your child is having trouble putting down the iPad, try inspiring some imaginative play time with one of these ideas.

Running a Restaurant

It’s pretty much a fact that kids love serving adults silly pretend foods. Use your child’s play kitchen or some (non-breakable) real dishes to set up a little kitchen and dining area. Order the wackiest things you can think of and watch your little chef scramble to please their customer.

Veterinarian’s Office

Give all the stuffed animals a checkup, take some x-rays, and maybe even perform a surgery or two (ahem, pretend surgeries – we know scattered stuffing is the last thing you need!) No toy doctor’s kit? Just grab some bandaids,a thermometer, and a few old medicine syringes to help your kiddo play the part. If they love it, you can use the Let’s Pretend Pet Doctor Pop Up to create an immersive vet’s office right in the playroom.

Dollhouse Guests

Imagine that the dolls have guests coming over and need to get the dollhouse ready. Have fun pretending to clean the place up and leaving special surprises for the guests – add a little drama by pretending the bathtub broke or the fridge is out of food.

Pirate Ship Playset

The play deck on your swingset makes for a great pirate ship – especially if you grab a frisbee to use as a steering wheel and an empty paper towel roll for a telescope. Go on a pirating adventure, and use the slide or swings to “splash” into the ocean.

Shopping Trip

Pretend shopping trips are super fun and usually pretty low maintenance on your part. Give your child a basket or wagon to gather items from the house and then check them out as you slide them across the coffee table (bonus points for “boop” noises!) Use an old wallet, pretend money, or old cards to add to their fun.

Building with Blocks

The simplicity of blocks and building bricks offer a great chance for toddlers to showcase their imagination! A simple stack of blocks becomes everything from a hospital to top secret headquarters. Incorporate a few of their favorite figurine-sized toys to inspire even more imaginative creations. As your little ones think up fun storylines for their toys to act out, they’ll likely build structures to go along.

Fort Building

Speaking of blanket forts, they’re a surefire way to inspire imaginative play. Kids’ imagination will transform them into everything from a rabbit’s burrow to a witch’s lair. Have fun seeing what your little one comes up with.

Playing Preschool

Give your preschooler a chance to be the teacher for once by helping them set up a “school” for their favorite toys. You can use tape to mark a spot on the floor for each “student” and give them all a few school supplies like paper and crayons. If your little one has an easel, set it up as the chalkboard – oh, and be sure to take notes during the lesson!

Act Out Favorite Shows

When your child gets upset that screen time is over (we’ve all been there), use their love of their favorite shows to kickstart an imaginative play session! Sometimes offering to take on the role of some of their favorite characters can lessen the blow. Whether that means acting like talking pups with cool gadgets or pajama-wearing superheroes, your child is sure to have a blast and appreciate your interest in one of their favorite things.

While no toy can replace your child’s imagination, providing a few quality toys that promote pretend play can help ensure that they engage in imaginative play every day. From classic wooden dollhouses and play kitchens, to outdoor swing sets and NERF forts, to innovative setups like the Let’s Pretend Popups and Ultimate Spaceship, all KidKraft toys are designed to foster your child’s love of imaginative play. Because just like our toys, kids are made for make believe!