Is Pretend Play Good for Kids?

I recently watched two 5 year old boys engage in pretend play with a pirate ship and related toys. The back and forth exchange was so fun to watch. They didn’t even notice I was there, as they were so engaged in this creative verbal dialogue as good guy and bad guy. Lots of sound effects added to the fun. Was there conflict? Yes! of course! and they worked it out all on their own.

Top 3 reasons pretend play is so important in child development.

  1. It allows children to express and cope with their feelings. Notice how often the roles being played out reflect conflict and then conflict resolution!
  2. It allows children to have total control and mastery over their environment. Their imaginations can soar and they get to make decisions and choices without adult restrictions. This is how kids learn self- control and also empathy.
  3. It allows children to learn how to interact and understand another person’s feelings. It also teaches them how to be flexible in play. Watch your children act out playing house or school or fireman/policeman.

Some tips to get more of this type of play happening in your house.

  • Allow the space and time.
  • Invite neighbors, friends or cousins over to play along.
  • Avoid toys that have only one use or purpose.
  • Provide toys and supplies that can be used in diverse ways. Examples: costumes, blocks, dolls, pretend kitchen items, cars, boats, and small play people. Also, sticks, tape and colored paper.
  • Change it up frequently to stimulate creativity and discourage boredom.

Children learn by playing………so let them play. For some inspiration, check out this list of 75 fun pretend play ideas!


Curly Clues Club is a monthly box delivery service for kids ages 3-8, focused on social and emotional development. All boxes include original content designed with love by a speech & language pathologist.

Jane Koerbel