Deanne’s family followed a Charlotte Mason philosophy and her children loved to dress up and pretend to be character(s) from the books read in their studies. It was common to peer through the window to see “Davy Crockett” traipsing between trees or “Laura Ingalls” skipping along the path. Donna’s children both naturally loved dress-up play; her daughter would play dress-up and have tea parties with her young friends or stuffed animals, while her son would run through the barnyard dressed as his version of a superhero. Just a few second-hand clothes and hats, big towels, old sheets, and some fun accessories make this and much more possible! Sometimes all you need is a hat to lend a dose of authenticity to your pretend play. It’s fun to watch your children take on the leadership traits and character of their historical personality! These child-size versions of tricorne hats, Civil War caps and bonnets are terrific; they’re made of cotton or wool, not plastic, so they will last many adventures!

Dress-ups are also a perfect avenue to explore a variety of careers. While you can also find secondhand clothes to transform into uniforms, Melissa and Doug also offers a wide range of role playing sets for younger children that include hats and accessories. The Fire Chief, Police Officer and Construction Worker Role Play Sets are all great options for pretend play. If you have a child interested in the medical or veterinary field, check out the Junior Doctor Scrubs from Aeromax, Inc. Made from a poly/cotton blend, these sets of scrubs also include booties, a mask and a surgical cap. As a former nurse, Deanne is a huge fan of these sets and she recommends adding an inexpensive stethoscope so they can actually listen to heartbeats instead of just pretending on stuffed animals. Donna’s pick in the careers dress-up category is the Lab Coat also by Aeromax that is available in both junior and adult sizes. Add some lab safety goggles, a loupe or a magnifying lens for more fun. Scientists come in all shapes and sizes and fields of interest; dress these up any way that fits your child’s role play needs. It’s worth mentioning that both the Melissa and Doug Role Play Sets and the Aeromax scrubs and lab coats are machine washable.

After they have their outfit, they might need a pretend car or truck, animal kennel, office or castle. This is where cardboard boxes come in handy. Consider contacting local furniture or electronic stores, for free larger size boxes.  Bring them home and allow your children’s imagination to run wild. Over the years, Deanne’s children created space shuttles, trains and even the Mayflower with a little imagination, duct tape and large cardboard boxes! You can also use smaller boxes to create cars and trucks, furniture and more. For more inspiration, check out Pinterest or an idea book like The Cardboard Box Book.

Pretend play can be as involved or as simple as you would like it to be. Other easy to do at home options include a play restaurant, store, or even a carnival. Deanne remembers playing the fishing game with her little brother, by setting a blanket across the door. With a stick and rope she or her brother would fish over the blanket, while the other sibling took no longer wanted toys and attached it to the rope. Of course, in typical sibling fashion, they charged each other a dime to “fish” for toys, but what a great way to make memories, a little money and share no longer wanted toys! Donna remembers setting up the picnic table and benches to make a store front and borrowed items from mom’s pantry to sell to neighborhood friends. The money was pretend and all sales were temporary, but the experience was a lot of fun. And who doesn’t remember making “soup” outdoors by mixing weeds, cut up grass, dirt, and water in one of Mom’s old pots. It’s a little messy, but clothes and kids are washable!

We hope this has inspired you to set aside time for your children to pretend play, but we think Albert Einstein sums it up best, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”