Pretend play is so critical to the development of kids’ imagination, regardless of age and developmental stages.
Whether playing dolls, dress-up or house, spending time pretend playing puts your child into that make-believe world, where their creativity and imagination can take over.
Providing your kids with simple games and a good play space can help them in developing strong social skills, like how to share and take turns together.
Most importantly, you can help kids exercise their creativity by allowing plenty of play time. Arrange for play dates or sleepovers and encourage them to play instead of watching TV or playing video games.
Making Space for Kids to Play
If space in your home or apartment is limited, even a small playroom or area with kids play furniture and playroom accessories will give them their own play space.
Making room and time for kids to pretend play is easy and fun. Anything you can do to help spark their imagination keeps them from boredom and helps them develop and hone those all-so-important social and creative skills.
Setting up a Kids’ Playroom
You can greatly encourage pretend play by giving kids their own play space, complete with furniture, toys, games and kids’ accessories.
Start by designating a special area for pretend playing; it might be a separate room or perhaps a dedicated space in your family room or game room.
While it doesn’t have to be a huge space, dedicating a room or area specifically intended for play is important for kids and helps contain the clutter and chaos, making your life at home easier too!
Play Tables & Chairs
A child-sized table or desk and chairs make for a perfect pretend tea party, classroom or to make their own pretend store or cafe. Bean bags also make a great addition to your playroom. A nice, comfortable area lets kids sprawl out and use their imaginations to go on any adventure they dream up. Remember it’s their space and the table and chairs should be their size.
The Land of Nod sells a very cool item called ‘Home Sweet Play Home’; a tent-like playhouse designed for ages three and up, with your choice of fabrics in blue, green, pink or lavender. You just hang it from a ceiling up to nine feet tall and the kids have their very own indoor playhouse!
You can put kid-sized versions of home appliances, furniture, play kitchens or perhaps a tool chest and bench for playing house. A kids’ vanity will be fun for little girls while boys may find a kids’ castle or fort fun.
A child picnic table, desk or play bench offers kids a solid work surface for crafts and drawing projects, an essential part of any kids’ playroom décor!
Aside from kid-sized tables and chairs you’ll want something for adults too; a small love seat or sofa gives you a good place to read to kids, watch their puppet shows and music shows and just hang out with your children.
Another way to share space with the kids is to have matching adult-sized and kids’ rocking chairs in your playroom space. Bean bags and ottomans also provide places to sit or play board games and can also be used when making a fort. In our playroom the old modular sofa from our family room has 2 large ottomans which, along with the couch cushions, are almost always configured into some type of fort structure!
Beanbags, floor cushions and kid upholstered seating is available in a dizzying array of choices these days at stores like Target, Wal-Mart, Pottery Barn Kids and others.
Kids’ Activity Mats
One great way to add color and a ‘kid feel’ to your playroom is to use activity mats like the ones teachers often use in K-1 classrooms, with letters or numbers on it. These can made of woven fabric more like a rug or rubber, which makes a smooth yet bouncy-soft surface to play on.
Small-sized accessories are an inexpensive way to let their imaginations really come alive; try things like toy models, puppets, dolls, stuffed animals, even boxes painted to look like common household items.
Kids’ Arts and Crafts
No playroom is complete without an art and crafting center. The best things you can buy are those rolling plastic carts with bins and drawers to store all the arts and crafts supplies.
Be sure you have a good place for kids to sit and work on projects; a small desk or table works but plastic art mats you can throw down on the floor are great for the really messy projects. Kids like to spread stuff out so don’t assume that art projects will be confined to the desk or table only!
Leave your kids’ creations around for several days, taking advantage of that special play area so they can come back to that secret fort made between a sofa and ottoman and covered with blankets or sheets. You’ll love watching them change and transform these special creations each day.
Bulletin Boards & Chalkboards
Hanging a whiteboard or cork board on the wall, with art supplies like felt tip pens, crayons, cardboard and construction paper nearby, gives kids a perfect way to display their art and crafts projects.
Props and Imagination Starters
Creative props provide inspiration to role play and pretend being a pirate, a princess or anything else kids want to try. Keep props, hats and costumes in a readily accessible storage trunk. Here are some useful kids’ playroom entertainment ideas:
- Music Reviews and Kids’ Karaoke – Music plays a very important role in emerging literacy students, so keep musical instruments such as electric keyboard, drum pads, harmonicas, a portable CD or MP3 Player with speakers, a microphone so they can sing along!
- Dance Rehearsals – Our girls love to put on dance shows. They love to go all out, rehearsing the show for hours in the playroom, printing up show tickets and flyers which are passed out to adults at show time. It’s a great time for all and the kids learn valuable music and performing arts skills, practicing being on stage.
- Puppet Shows – Another favorite pastime for kids is putting on their own puppet show. You can build your own puppet theater using cardboard boxes or build a simple plywood puppet stage with fabric curtains and let the kids paint it themselves.
Kids’ Playroom Storage Tips
One of the obvious challenge confronting parents universally is keeping a kids’ playroom tidy. Kids attract stuff like flowers attract bees and hummingbirds! Every year you end up with more stuff and kids go through phases.
The worst thing to your five year old is going to find her favorite toddler toy and finding you’ve given it away to another family because she hadn’t played with in over 2 years! Here are some tips on keeping your playroom in (relative) order:
- Bookcases, Wall & Media Systems – A wall-mounted or built in wall system will give you plenty of book shelves, drawers and cabinets to keep kids’ stuff hidden away when not in use.
- Toy Boxes – Creative props provide inspiration to role play and pretend being a pirate, a princess or anything else kids want to try. Keep props, hats and costumes in a readily accessible storage trunk or toy chest.
- Benches – You can find benches with opening lid for additional kids’ storage.
- Shelves – Wall-mounted, free standing with plastic bins, drawer units with rolling casters and other shelving is crucial to keeping your kids’ playroom organized. The bigger the playroom actually the more challenging it becomes to contain ‘toy sprawl’.
- Wall Pegs & Peg Racks – Arts and crafts aprons or smocks, coats and other garments need a place to hang. Peg racks can accommodate small plastic bins, hooks and other attachments of all sorts to store everything from glue sticks and glitter to clay.
Creating a Themed Playroom
A theme will add interest and playfulness to your playroom. Below are some playroom theme ideas to get you started:
- Kids Murals – A mural playroom can be painted by your kids or you can have an artist do a trompe l’oeil if budget allows and you prefer not to let the kids paint the playroom walls. We have found in our own home playroom that putting up posters and wall art the kids do themselves is the way to go; if we had painted a wall mural it would probably be covered up by now anyway!
- Princess Playroom – For girls a princess theme is always popular. Our six-year-old loves to dress up as Ariel, Cinderella or which ever princess is her favorite this week. She loves to have tea parties with the wooden kids table and chairs hand-painted by her Aunt and using the tiny porcelain tea set her grandmother gave her. Alone with her dolls or together with a friend, she enjoys the princess outfits and tea set for hours on end. She also enjoys playing with her wooden doll house of course.
- Disney Playroom – If your kid really loves Disney movies and characters then a Disney theme could also be fun in your children’s playroom. Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and all of their favorite Walt Disney characters can be used in decorating a fun playroom. Using cartoon characters for wall art will give the playroom a fun and colorful look.
- Kids Playhouse – You can buy a pre made kids playhouse or build one yourself, using plywood and painting it to look like a cottage in the woods, a beach bungalow or any other style that fits your kids’ playroom. Really, any type of castle, fort, house, car, space ship or other play structure will fuel kids’ imagination and let them pretend almost anything!