Picture Books to Encourage
Pretend Play

by Melissa Taylor

Photo credit: Blend Images - JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Enriched pretend play helps children learn new concepts, develop interpersonal skills, improve motor skills, and gain independence.
(Tools of the Mind, Bodrova & Leong, 2007)

Try these simple ideas to support children’s cognitive development, extend playtime, and make it more enriching.

Read plenty of books.

Inspire new pretend play ideas by reading picture books about children using their imaginations to create worlds and adventures. Perhaps, like Ladybug Girl, your child will invent a superhero persona. Or, like King Jack, your child will use cardboard boxes to create a castle.

Expand your child’s knowledge.

Before playtime, build your child’s background knowledge and vocabulary. If your child wants to play mechanic, read picture books about mechanics, and maybe take a field trip to your garage or a mechanic’s garage.

Use props to enhance their play.

Next, help your children think of any props they might want. For example, if your child wants to play bookstore, provide them with a cash box, pretend money, and price stickers.

Play with a plan.

Help children plan out scenarios and roles for their pretend play. Ask what might happen and where. Will there be monsters or customers? Will they be in a beauty salon or a pirate ship? Ask what roles each person will take on. For example, a vet hospital might want one person to be a pet owner, another person could be a pet, and someone else could be a veterinarian. Ask your kids to plan the roles beforehand and suggest switching them up at some point, making it fair to everyone.

I promise that these enriching components will make a big difference in the magic of your child’s pretending.

Ready to get your kids playing? Here are several fantastic picture books to get you started.