How to Inspire Imaginative Play

Children have wonderful imaginations and love to play! Imaginative play (often called dramatic play or pretend play) appeals to young children as they can be creative and use their imaginations to recreate situations that are familiar to them as well as create new scenarios.

Imaginative play ideas

Imaginative Play

Imaginative play often happens naturally as children love imitating people around them. When your child copies you working, pretends to talk on your phone or offers you a pretend cup of tea, that is imaginative play.

Children are influenced by places they have been and things they have seen. Any experience a child has had can later be brought into their play. Everyday experiences like going shopping, eating out at a restaurant or even going to the doctor or dentist can become part of their play.

Children also love taking on imaginative roles such as becoming a princess or superhero. They may be influenced by books, television, shows or friends.

I am a firm believer in children learning through play and there are many benefits of imaginative play. As children are having fun playing imaginatively, they are learning important skills such as creative thinking, problem-solving and language skills. Imaginative play can also help younger children make sense of the world around them.

Imaginative play ideas

Imaginative Play Ideas

Children can be surprisingly inventive with the way that they repurpose everyday items into their imaginative play. A box can be turned into a shop or a stick into a wand, so you don’t need to go out and buy loads of items for your child to get involved in imaginative play.

If however, you want to buy a few items to encourage your child to get immersed in pretend play you can purchase all of the items pictured below from the Imaginative Play Toys sections from Very.

Below you will find a few of our favourite imaginative play ideas.

Play Food

There are a few items that are always popular for imaginative play and playing with toy food is high up on the list. Young children love using a play kitchen to make food to share with their toys or to set up a tea party.

Imaginative play ideas - play food

If you don’t have room for a full toy kitchen in your home or want something a little different, then using something smaller such as this sandwich counter is a good option. Your child can have fun taking orders (which encourages counting and sorting) and making food for the family.

Imaginative play ideas - sandwich counter

First Aid

Kids just love playing doctors and nurses! They can take on a nurturing role as they look after teddies, friends or family and try to make them feel better. The great thing about first aid imaginative play is the huge range of accessories that children can experiment with. They can have fun taking temperatures or using bandages. It is also great fun packing up all the accessories into a carry case to carry around the house.

Imaginative play ideas - fist aid kid, doctor and nurses pretend play

Dress up

Children love dressing up to take on new roles in their imaginative play. Whether that be a chef for imaginative play in a kitchen, a policeman or a favourite character such as Batman. Once in their costume children can be transported into a new world where they really become their character. Watch as your child changes their voice or characteristics to take on those of their new role.

Imaginative play ideas - dressing up

Makeup Artist

Imaginative play isn’t just for little children, as children get older they often still love to play make-believe. A fun imaginative play set-up that some older children might enjoy is to take on the role of a make-up artist! They can use children’s make-up to glam themselves up from tip to toe and then have fun creating new styles for friends and family.

Imaginative play ideas - make up artist


Schoolchildren (or those starting school soon) will have so much fun recreating their classroom at home. Children can take on the role of the teacher or a pupil as they play with family, friends or even dolls and teddies. Being a mini teacher is a lot of fun and a mini school is easy to set up using simple props such as a whiteboard, pointer and pencils and paper, and of course not forgetting stickers for pupils that are doing especially well! 

Imaginative play ideas - school

A little bell to signal playtime, lunchtime and home time is a nice addition too!

Imaginative play ideas - school pretend play

More Pretend Play Ideas

Here are a few more imaginative play ideas that you can find on the Messy Little Monster website:

You can also use our dramatic play printables alongside pretend play props to create a fun and imaginative play area. 

Dramatic Play Printables

If you wanted small-world play then check out our diorama box and have a go at making one of your own!

These are just a few imaginative play ideas; the options really are endless. It is always worth adding some paper and pens to your imaginative play areas to encourage early writing and it is always fun for children if you get involved! Have fun!

Follow us on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube or Subscribe for free email updates!

No comments

Back to Top