Imaginative Play Ideas for Young Children

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During the day, I’m home alone with my two and four year old. I’m also trying to work a full time job remotely. Just like many parents right now, I found myself searching for valuable play and learning activities for my kids that can last more than five minutes.  I’ve discovered, you don’t need to go out and buy play-kits, costumes, or toys for this. All these imaginative play ideas for young children can be set up with everyday household items and (hopefully) entertain your kids for hours.

Here are my ideas for imaginative play ideas for young children:

Medicine – Doctor, Nurse, and Veterinarian

I gave my kids some old liquid medicine syringes (no needle), empty medicine bottles, box of bandaids, masks, and pretend medicine (jelly beans, smarties candy, tic tacs, crackers, or nuts all worked well). Dolls and stuffed animals got treated by the kids and I was at the pharmacy when the medicine ran out. 

Post Office 

I supplied the kids with envelopes, old Amazon boxes, and stickers for stamps. They packaged up their letters and toys and shipped them to rooms in the house. The easy chair was our delivery truck.

Restaurant 

Hand over some empty food containers from the recycling bin, a few pots and pans, and plastic cutlery. Let them make a menu and open a restaurant.  

Camping Trip

child in living room tent
Make a tent with a sheet or blanket

Pull out some sleeping bags and make a tent with sheets in the living room. Even better, set up a tent in the yard (if you have one). Have them pack their backpack for a “hike” around the house, go on a bear hunt, and cook on a pretend campfire.  

Trick or Treat

We made this an outside activity.  The kids were excited to have their plastic jack-o-lanterns to collect candy (acorns and rocks) around the neighborhood (our yard).  They also pretended our storage shed was a haunted house. 

Trick or Treat in the house
Pull out the trick or treat stuff!

Target

Have the kids set up “Target” store in the living room. Provide them with a box of random household items to set up a store.  With multiples, one can buy while the other is the cashier. 

Easter

We just enjoyed Easter so it’s fresh in their memory. It was fun for the kids to play Easter bunny and hide plastic eggs then go find them again.  

Airplane/Bus/Delivery Truck

Make the couch a vehicle. They can drive, fly, or transport items from one place to another. Each stop, have passengers like dolls or stuffies get on and off, or packages made from boxes and gift bags.  

Make these ideas even better by….

  1. Adding costumes – Need a uniform? Add a grown-up hat and belt. Need a princess dress? Use your dress slip. Need a car?  Try a laundry basket. Glasses?  Punch out the lenses of some old shades or try safety goggles.  Phone or headset?  We used old headphones and baby monitors.
  2. Going outside – I’ve been having my kids make these play activities in the backyard. Now, rocks can be pretend money, a building is a blue tarp on the ground, and a vehicle is a pallet or rinsed out recycling bin. 
  3. Crafting the support items – Don’t have play money? Have your preschooler work on their cutting skills by having them make their own! No pretend stethoscope? Make one with whatever you have in the house – paper, pipe cleaners, clothes hanger, or bottle caps.  This post gives great ideas about creative play ideas with packaging and junk mail!

Good luck to all the amazing parents and caregivers out there figuring out how to support imaginative play ideas for young children during this period of stay at home.

What imaginative play has captured your young child’s attention?

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