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Let's Play Pretend!

Kick-start your child's imaginative play with these 14 inspired (and inspiring) ideas.
child pretending to be pirate Flexing the Imagination Muscle

It doesn't take much effort to envision a shipping container as a pirate ship when you're 3 or 4—and, in fact, that sort of make-believe is critical to a child's development. "Imaginative play fosters creativity and helps children explore the world," says child psychologist David Elkind, Ph.D., author of The Power of Play. Make-believe also has therapeutic value, he says: "Children sometimes feel weak in comparison to adults, but when they engage in it they take the role of adults and heroes."

Thankfully, kids are hardwired to play pretend. In fact, in a recent Motherboard Moms poll nearly 75 percent of moms said their preschoolers engage in make-believe activities every day. That's great, Elkind says, because "Imaginations and creativity are like muscles: If you don't use them you lose them." Here are 14 easy ways to help get your little ones' creative juices flowing.