Picture Books to Encourage
by Melissa Taylor
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.
Let's Pretend Fire Station
Learn all about firefighters working at a fire station with this die-cut board book starring kids doing firefighter activities. The photographs of children will help readers put themselves in the roles so they’ll be ready to launch into a firefighter-themed pretend play.
How to Talk Monster
When a monster appears at a little boy’s window, he’s frightened and doesn’t understand the monster’s language. Despite the boy’s fear, he helps the monster when he gets hurt. They learn to communicate and become the best of friends.
I Am Someone Else
Explore the many possibilities of pretending with playful poems from writers like Lois Lowry, Douglas Florian, and Prince Redcloud. These joyful poems show children defying gender stereotypes and exploring who they are through play.
Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy
Ladybug Girl (a little girl dressed up as a ladybug) arrives at the park where she and her friend Sam decide to play “Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy.” They’ll have to cooperate with each other and use their imaginations to have a parade and save the playground from monsters and robots.
Grandude lets his four grandkids pick a destination postcard, then uses his magic compass to travel to that location. With a zing, bang, and sizzle, the kids visit the Swiss Alps, travel to the Wild West, and ride flying fish. Talk about the best rainy day ever!
King Jack and the Dragon
King Jack and his trusty knights, Zak and Caspar, build a castle fort from a big cardboard box, then defend it against a dragon (their adorable toddler sibling). Soothing rhymes and exquisite watercolors give this imaginative play story a timeless feeling.Preorder from:
The Paper Kingdom
When Daniel’s babysitter cancels, his parents take him to their night job in an office building. As they work, Daniel’s parents tell him stories that transform the ordinary building into a magical kingdom with dragons and a Paper King named Daniel. Their rich, loving storytelling brings joy to the sleepy boy’s evening.