12 Pretend Play Ideas You Can Set Up in One Afternoon


Get ready for all kinds of pretend play awesomeness! Your creative kiddo is a dress-up maven who could spend the entire day magically transforming cardboard boxes into planes, trains, automobiles and so much more. Break out the pretend play toys, gather together a few key art supplies, and plan to spend the day in the outrageously imaginative world your curious kid creates.

Police Station

Terri Thompson via Creative Family Fun

Help solve the case of the missing pie! It’s so easy to set up a pretend police station, you’ll think it’s a crime. Check out the simple material list and adorable (free) downloadable case files created by Terri over at Creative Family Fun. Head over to the blog for clues on how to make badges for your own little detectives.

Little Library

Kristen Greazel via Make the Best of Everything

Your little bookworm is checking out! Make a play library with your enthusiastic kid. Fill out check-out cards (a fun throwback to your own childhood), stamp return dates, and organize an at-home library by author and alphabet. Find out where to get all the stuff you’ll need to create your own reading nook over at Make the Best of Everything.

House Painters

Mini Monets and Mommies

Your pint-sized Picasso isn’t into easels. Instead, they want to paint the house! Even though your littles can’t cover the exterior in a fresh coat of semi-matte, they can pretend play house painter with this easy art activity from Mini Monets and Mommies.

Food Truck Fun

Rachelle Doorley via Tinker Lab

From the brilliant mind behind Tinker Lab comes another creative kids pretend play idea. If you’ve got a big cardboard box, then you’ve got a restaurant, a vehicle and a store! The littles can serve up breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert—all in one afternoon. Roll over to Tinker Lab for more inspiration.

Office Space

Michelle Sybert via Be Brave, Keep Going

Your future CEO can get a dose of The Office when you set up a makeshift desk and workspace. Put those old electronics to use, and if you don’t have any on hand, blogger Michelle shares where she found hers at Be Brave, Keep Going.

Imaginative Eatery

Amy Jordan via AmyJDelightful

Take a note from AmyJDelightful, and serve up some fun with the kids at home. Using pretend play food or Play-Doh, it’s easy for your sous chef to whip up a fabulously fantastic “Michelin star-like” meal. Make your way over to AmyJDelightful for the free printable menu.

Pizza Parlor

Allison McDonald via No Time for Flashcards

It’s as easy as pie to recreate this imaginary play time. We love the simple way Allison of No Time for Flashcards tosses out a pizza parlor for her little chef. Grab a box from your local za shop, and search for the rest of your supplies around the house. Find out how to add extra toppings to this game for more fun over at No Time for Flashcards.

Fro-Yo Shop

Jen Kossowan via Mama Papa Bubba

Dish up loads of pretend play fun with a frozen yogurt shop. Check out the creatively clever ideas for using leftover craft materials for toppings over at Mama Papa Bubba. This is when all those empty plastic tubs you recycle will come in handy!

Post Office

Chelsea Marashian via Buggy and Buddy

Snail mail is the best! With a play set-up like this one from Buggy and Buddy, your littles can become letter carriers who address, stamp and deliver packages and notes. Don’t want to splurge on a real mailbox? Zip on over to Buggy and Buddy to find out what materials work just as well.

Sweet Salon

Hands On As We Grow

Before your bored kiddo cuts their baby sib’s bangs, check out this salon-inspired activity from Hands On As We Grow. This cute and crafty idea will help to build fine motor skills and let your little ones unleash their imaginative inner salon stylist.

Grocery Store

Sarah McClelland via Little Bins for Little Hands

There’s no car cart to push the kiddies around, but a trip to this grocery store will still be a blast. This simple set up from Little Bins for Little Hands is made mostly from recycled materials—with only a few toys thrown into the mix. Find out how to make all-important shelves for endless grocery store pretend play here.

Unreal Royals

Mini Monets and Mommies

Does your child need a little fairytale-like pretend play fun in their day? Whether they want to act out the IRL story of Kate Middleton or they prefer to dress-up like their favorite Disney prince or princess, this easy crown craft is just the start of your little royal's needs.

—Gabby Cullen & Erica Loop


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