There are so many places I would like to take my little ones!
But because I am immunocompromised, we have to stay home due to Covid.
The bright side of this is that we have had a lot of time to figure out the best ways to experience the outside world without even leaving the house!
Perhaps you are looking for some new imaginary play activities to do with your children.
Or maybe you are looking for the best quality products in order to make those activities even more exciting!
Regardless, I believe that my children and I have become pretty good experts at learning how to enhance these activities to their fullest!
Here are some of our best pretend play ideas!
*Some of the links within this post are affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase an item, I may receive a small compensation from certain items.
I really miss taking my son to the library to pick out books like I used to every week – pre-Covid.
It may sound boring, but it is actually a lot of fun to play – especially if you spice things up!
We set up a little toy cash register near my son’s bookshelf in his bedroom as a way to scan a pretend library car and books.
We also use his small rocking horse because the part that you sit on is flat and we like to use this as the “scanner.”
Someone gets to be the “librarian” and the other players get to have “library cards” and come into the “library” to check out books!
Remember how you are supposed to be very quiet going into a library?
Well, we like to spice this part up by “forgetting” to be quiet and to start talking in a really loud voice!
The “librarian” gets to hold up an index finger to their lips and says, “Shhh!”
We also like to include stuffed animals into our play!
For instance, my son loves to bring in his stuffed Mickey Mouse, as his side kick, and let him pick out books, too!
The “librarian” tells everyone how many books they are allowed to check out.
This is also a great game to promote counting skills because everyone has to count how many books they have or how many books are being checked out!
We enjoy playing house!
I think that just about everyone enjoys this game!
If you have a great house-like set-up for kids, it makes it even more lifelike!
But no worries!
If money or extra space is an issue, you can always turn random toys into pretend household items!
For instance, you could use a box for a kitchen table or a bubble wand for a spoon!
My 2-year-old daughter loves using bubble wands for spoons!
My 5-year-old son has autism and is overly focused on police officers (amongst other things).
Because of this, there always has to be a twist where someone goes to jail!
Usually it is “mommy” because she forgets to make his toast for him for breakfast!
There also has to be a “lost-power issue” with our “house” because he has a passion for generators, as well!
Don’t worry about planning it all out!
You can turn your own house play into something special just as you go along with the game!
Just give everyone a role (mommy, daddy, brother, sister, baby, auntie, etc) and just see what fun comes out of it!
I can pretty much guarantee that there will be some good laughs during the event!
This is one of my favorites!
Got a toy cash register?
A little toy grocery cart?
Some pretend food?
Then you’re all set to go!
If you want to go big and fancy, you can check out this really cool all-in-one store, so you have everything that you need!
Again, you can always use random items around the house to create your own store!
Someone is the “customer” and gets to come into the store, push the grocery cart and fill it with food!
Someone else is the “cashier” and gets to scan the “customer’s” groceries!
We usually just use a toy credit card to pay with, but if your child is a little older, this would also be a good time to practice money skills!
The twist in our play?
Well, as I mentioned, my son always has to turn into a police officer at some point!
So, someone “breaks into” our store after hours and then ends up in jail!
It sounds odd, but I must say, that this twist does teach the kids what not to do in society and the consequence of it!
And my daughter?
Well, she always has to have her stuffed kitty cat buy and eat a “donut”!
4. Laundry Mat
This one is a fun one!
Especially if you have a bunch of dress-up clothes!
We ended up using two, larger empty boxes: one for the “washer” and one for the “dryer”
I cut a large whole in each one where the kids could throw the clothes in.
I also drew buttons on each box with a marker for the different cycles.
Again, if you are the type who prefers to go big and bold, you could just get a real toy washer and dryer!
We load a bunch of random clothes into an empty laundry basket.
Then we throw it into a “car” and take it into the “laundry mat”
When we get into the laundry mat, the owner has a “giggle” problem.
Whomever is the owner stands there and laughs and laughs and laughs!
While we throw in our laundry, we try to help the owner with the “giggle” problem.
My son finally turns into a police officer and gives the owner a ticket for “too many giggles.”
We have a couple of toy fishing poles and some magnetic fish that go with it.
I throw out a blue blanket onto the floor for the pond.
Then we throw the toy fish into it.
We sit with the fishing poles and try to catch the fish.
Here’s the twist!
I have a very special role here…
I “swim” up and pretend to eat up all of the fish while the kids are trying to use their poles to catch them!
And then I let out a loud burp and toss all of the fish back into the “pond.”
It’s a little bit cheesy, but it sure is fun!
In the end, my son “arrests” the shark and puts him jail for burping too loudly!
We’re going on a picnic!
Who doesn’t like a picnic?!
If you have a pretend picnic basket and some toy food, then you are good to go!
Have your little ones pick out which toy food they would like to bring.
Let them put the food into the basket.
Putting things in and taking things out is a highlight of fun at this age!
Take different ways of getting to your picnic destination.
For example, the kids and I will hop out of the playroom.
Then we march down the hallway.
We put our arms out and pretend to fly through the living room.
Make a sharp turn around the trampoline.
Finally, we “land” in front of the fireplace!
The kids enjoy taking food out of the basket and setting places for each other.
It is a wonderful time to work on skills pertaining to being polite
“Would you like a muffin, Ryan?”
We also work on taking turns.
For instance, if Ryan carries the basket to the picnic destination, then Belle gets to carry it back.
The twist to our picnic play?
A large seagull swoops down and takes our food!
Guess who gets to be the seagull?
This is a fun one!
We gather up all of our stuffed animals!
Then we set each one at a fair distance from one another on the couch.
We use pieces of paper for “tickets” to get into the zoo!
Someone maintains the zoo and accepts the “tickets” as we walk in.
The kids enjoy waving to the “animals” and pretending to feed each one.
But then there is the giraffe!
The giraffe “reaches down” and “takes” my daughter’s hat!
We sure do have a lot of fun trying to “get it back!”
Finally, the power goes out at the zoo and my son has to turn on the “generator.”
What would your family’s zoo set-up look like?
What funny things might your “animals” do?
Here is when we get to make good use of my son’s toy dinosaurs!
We set them up all over the playroom.
Just as with the zoo, everyone needs a “ticket” to enter.
One person gets to be a statue within the museum and makes funny faces at the people walking by!
Of course, my son accidentally trips over a “plug” and the power “goes out”!
Next thing you know, he is turning on a “generator!”
If you do not have any toy dinosaurs, you can just use some stuffed animals.
You could also use some “old” items and put them on display.
Perhaps you have an old coat from the ’70s hanging in the closet.
Or maybe an old purse from the 90’s!
If there are enough members in the family, a few people can act as statues!
There are so many ways that you can play Museum!
It is incredible!
9. Food Court
Now this one is fun to do during snack time!
Prepare a bunch of different little snacks and set them up at different places around the kitchen.
Someone is the server.
When one of the “customers” comes up to look at the food, the server tries to sell it to them.
“Welcome! Would you like some cheese cubes today? These are super delicious!”
When the “customer” walks away, the “server” quickly goes to the next food “station” and does the same.
Once the customers select a snack, they have to “pay” for it with pretend money.
Then they go sit down to eat!
It is one of my favorites because food is involved, and big mama here loves food!
10. Birthday Party
Birthday parties in real life are so much fun!
Why not enjoy them year-round?
Well, when you have little ones, you can do just that!
Just about every day lately, my kids like to make me a “birthday cake” out of Play-doh.
Then they find some random candle-looking object to stick in the middle of it.
My heart melts when they sing me “Happy Birthday” with those little voices and those mixed-up words!
And then we rotate until everyone has had a birthday celebration!
How elaborate would you like to go with this?
Super simple Play-doh cake?
Or perhaps you would go all out and hang some streamers and make a real cake!
Let your kids celebrate with you!
A party is a blast!
Everyday truly is a birthday!
11. Tea Party
Ahhh….the classic tea party!
Now, I have never really been a big fan of this game, but my 2-year-old daughter loves it!
You can always get a toy tea set that is already prepared for you!
Or you could go around the house and find some little cups and a little watering can for the tea pot and do it up yourself!
Got some dress-up hats?
Put them on!
Got a toy telephone?
Give it a ring and invite a friend for a tea party!
As mentioned, there is always a twist to our game.
Not sure if I should be sharing this, but…
I always let out a loud “burp” and make the kids laugh.
Then my son tells me how rude that is and that I should apologize.
Can you guess?
He turns into a police officer and writes me a ticket for burping so loud!
You can create your tea party play to be one that is very prim and proper!
Or you can spice it up and invite someone “rude” like me to your party!
However you play it, it’s going to be a cup of tea!
Is your family the type to take weekend trips up north and go camping?
Well, we are not.
You’ll never catch me doing something so brave and daring!
I’d be looking for the next hotel!
But when it comes to pretending to camp?
Well, I’m there!
We enjoy setting up a “tent” in the house using the couches and some blankets!
We just simply drape the blankets over 2 separate couches and then climb under them.
My daughter has this cool toy lantern that makes our play even more lifelike.
For excitement, my son pulls out his large stuffed bear and pretends to scare everyone with it.
And then he calls the “police” for us, tells us not to worry and then blows a toy whistle to scare the bear away.
Then he gives the bear a ticket for scaring us!
There are so many ways that you can play Camping!
You could pretend to get into an RV and drive to your destination!
You could get lost along the way!
You could even find a “treasure map” that leads you to a new adventure along the way!
Camping holds some awesome play!
This game came to life after my son informed me that he wanted a castle.
What put that into his head, I do not know!
Anyways, we purchased a really well-made toy castle, and our new pretend play game came to life!
Our “castle” is large enough for all 3 of us to fit inside!
So when the “queen” summons me to the castle, I can literally come in and visit!
We take turns being the “queen” but I enjoy being it best because I can boss everyone around!
(As if I don’t do that enough already as a mother! Ha!)
If you don’t want to purchase a toy castle, you can always make a fort and decorate it as a castle!
In our game of Castle, nothing too exciting happens.
The “queen” tells everyone to “cut the grass” or “repaint the castle” a certain color.
The “queen” also gets to take a nap whenever she likes!
(Yes, parents! You just read that right!)
When you are the “queen” or the “king” you get to do as you please in the castle!
How does that sound for fun?
14. Trick or Treat
Who doesn’t love to go trick-or-treating?!
You don’t have to wait for Halloween to come around!
You can set up trick-or-treating right there in your own house anytime you want!
And you don’t have to pass out candy every time, either!
You can pass out stickers or little toys that you already have or some crayons!
Remember, it is only pretend!
There’s only me and my two kids, so when we play this, I have to wear multiple hats!
At each room of the house, I have a different treat to pass out.
When the kids walk up to the room, I put the treat into their bag and then I quickly leap over to the next bedroom.
Then the kids walk up to that room and say, “trick-or-treat!”
Another treat into their bags!
When they are ready to “go home” they dump out their bags!
They get just as excited had I really had taken them trick-or-treating!
If you have more people in your household, it makes the game easier.
15. Backyard BBQ
I bet ya never thought about this one before!
Pretending to have a backyard barbecue can be refreshing and fun!
Especially in the dead of winter!
Create a “grill” out of anything that you feel would make a good pretend grill!
Then get some toy food, such as hot dogs, hamburgers, ketchup and mustard!
Don’t forget the toy spatula!
Pretend to call friends to come over and enjoy the “summer.”
You can use beach blankets to lay out on the floor and put on some sunglasses.
Someone pretends to grill up the food and then pass it out to everyone.
My kids love to take turns grilling!
The twist in our game?
Big Mama tries to sneak some extra food but doesn’t get very far!
That’s because my son, the suddenly magical “police officer” steps in and takes me to jail for stealing!
And my daughter just loves playing with the toy ketchup and mustard!
There You Have It!
There you go!
15 fun, pretend play ideas to enjoy with your little one!
I hope that these ideas bring you as much joy as they have to me.
There is nothing more special than those little moments of play with your child.
Take it in.
Soak it up.
Cherish every bit with your baby!
Someday soon, they’ll be “too old” to play.
God Bless and enjoy!
Mama Morgan is a single parent by day and a writer by night! She is raising two, young children with special needs during a global pandemic. She aims to give other parents confidence, hope, and a practical, down-to-earth reading adventure through her own experiences. While Morgan is heavily focused on caring for her little ones, she is also dedicated to helping others and making the world a better place. Mama’s Grilled Cheese is just her delicacy!