Dramatic Play in Early Childhood

Spark Your Imagination…More Ideas for Pretend Play

Throughout this blog, I have talked about the themes for dramatic play only being limited to your imagination. But I also realize that a lot of time we adults need some help getting our imaginations going when it comes to thinking up new ideas continually. I recently found a list of dramatic play themes on a teaching website that has more ideas than I think one adult could ever think up alone.


With pretend play, it is really important to continue to give children new experiences and setups for them to role play and experience. In early childhood classrooms, these new setups are usually done in the dramatic play center. And at home, parents can suggest the ideas/scenarios and provide a few unique props to stimulate children’s dramatic play.


So take a look at this webpage of the many dramatic play themes to see what sparks your imagination! Just take a look at some of the great ideas they have listed for the letters A, B, and C:


Animal shelter
Art gallery
Artist’s studio
Author’s office



Beauty shop
Birthday party
Book Store
Buried treasure/pirate
Bus or train



Candy shop
Car wash
Chinese restaurant
Clown show
Covered wagon


And for each letter of the alphabet, the webpage gives a lot more fun ideas that kids would love enacting as part of a dramatic play activity!



Kohl, M. (2008). Dramatic play centre ideas. Retrieved October 25, 2008 from, http://www.canteach.ca/elementary/drama8.html




A Visual of Playing Pretend at Home

Hopefully, it is now pretty clear how important dramatic play can be for small children both at school and home. The following video shows a little boy named Cristian engaging in pretend play at home. What the video doesn’t outwardly say is that Cristian is on the autism spectrum. Throughout the video, Cristian’s mother interacts with and prompts her son’s play. And while some of Cristian’s actions may or may not be the result of his developmental disability, this is not the important issue to look at here.


What’s really important in this video is to see the immediate interactions and skill/knowledge practice the young child is having while playing pretend. It’s a good visual example of a child engaging in dramatic play at home!




Firewifesadie. (2008, September 21). Cristian cooking & serving mama [Video file]. Retrieved October 13, 2008 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtGJ022zUeI

Dramatic Play at Home

The last few posts here have been about dramatic play in early childhood classrooms. But dramatic play is absolutely NOT limited to school! Actually, one of the first and most important places where children begin to experiment with and initiate pretend play is at home.


While early childhood education programs may be an important part of the development of children, remember that they spend much of their first few years at home with their families. This is the environment many children will feel the most comfortable in. For these reasons, it is important to create a positive pretend play atmosphere at home and help children engage in these kinds of play experiences.


Parents, bringing dramatic play into your child’s daily play at home is actually quite simple and fun! Just as with schools, the first step is to make sure your child has enough open-ended and engaging materials to play with. And you don’t have to spend a lot of money on these toys. Everyday household items and old clothes for dress-up are great additions to children’s pretend play experiences. It is also important to let your children experiment with dramatic play, to practice different roles and situations. And of course, why not join in on the fun?! As mentioned in previous posts, there are many advantages to dramatic play in any environment. When parents interact with their children in pretend play scenarios, you get to see those advantages right in front of you and help further your children’s development and learning.


Maybe you are have already integrated dramatic play into your home well and are now just looking for some more ideas. Or maybe you are not sure about pretend play at home yet. No matter, as long as you are giving your children opportunities to explore and play, know that you are absolutely on the right track!


In order to help you get a better sense of dramatic play at home, here is a list of the top ten ways to enhance home-based make-believe play. The list comes from best-child-toys.com, a Texas-based website that describes itself as a “one-stop place for parents looking for guidance to select toys and games”. Despite the URL sounding like a toy company looking to sell products, this website has nothing for sale, but instead just provides suggestions and ideas about play and toys.


First, be your child’s playmates — this is most effective when your children are young. However, let your child be in charge.

Second, if your child is older (more than 4 years of age), arrange a play date so that they can support each other’s dramatic play.

Third, play along if your child creates an imaginative playmate. Usually this playmate has a character which complements theirs. However, draw a line and be firm when your child starts to do something ‘naughty’ and blame this on her imaginative friend.

Fourth, do not intervene with your child’s play. Let their imagination flow.

Fifth, do not interrupt the play even when it’s time for your ‘child-turned-caveman’ to have lunch. Your child can always have lunch in his ‘cave’.

Sixth, provide a space in your home for imaginative play even if this means that your home will not look like a ‘designer home’ for a while. For instance, let your child transform the dining room table into a cave, or let her connect all the coffee and side tables and transform them into a tunnel.

Seventh, read a lot to your children and take them to as many places as you can. After reading, ask stimulating questions to your child, for instance, “What would you do if you were a …..?”. These will provide them with more experience more ideas for pretend play.

Eighth, when searching for a preschool for your child, investigate whether the preschool will support imaginative play.  

Ninth, for older children, consider involving them in theatrical productions or puppet movies.

Tenth, provide your children with many toys which support imaginative play.

The best advice I can give is to not worry about the details of bringing dramatic play experiences into your home. Look at the big picture: does your child have the freedom, space, and materials to play pretend? And how can you continue to encourage this type of play? This top ten list is a great way to look at the big picture of dramatic play at home. After all, remember that pretend play is all a form of play before all else.



Tips to enhance dramatic play. (2007). Retrieved October 24, 2008, from http://www.best-child-toys.com/dramatic-play.html