Pretend Play and Its Importance to Development

princess dress up pretend play

Pretend play, or role playing is a recent developmental milestone Roo has hit at age two. It began with talking to her dolls and stuffed animals, instead of simply carrying them around. I would overhear her reenacting moments from our day with them.

pretend playing with dolls

“No, no, Bear. That’s bad!”

“Ssshhh, Baby. It’s night-night time.”

“C’mon, Dolly. Let’s go to store.”

And so on.

Recently it progressed to sharing her toys with me or another adult and having them “talk” to each other. I put talk in quotations because the conversations usually consist of “Hello, how are you today?” and nothing else. She will also play independently like this for a good half hour. A favorite is this Little People Princess Castle! (affiliate link, but she loved this castle well before becoming an affiliate. Click here for my full affiliates disclosure)

I love listening to her tiny imagination grow and see how she views our world.

Why Pretend Play is Important to Development in Toddlers


When a toddler pretends to be someone else, they are seeing things from someone else’s point of view. This is one of the first stepping stones to learning empathy.


As your toddler talks to her toys, she is practicing using the words she hears in a conversation. Even if she mixes in baby talk, the rhythm of language is still being used.


Playing as a character gives children an opportunity to experiment with different emotions. They can work through feelings that they had or saw a friend experience in a safe environment.


Finally pretend play can be empowering. When you are your favorite hero, you can do anything!

Find Something You Like To Play Too

But as much as I hate to admit it, I don’t enjoy making the dollies and toys talk to each other. I don’t have the patience or imagination to make it interesting on her level. She senses my lack of interest, and lets me go on my way. But I hate it. I want to enjoy that time with her. I know how important the pretend play is and I want to foster it as long as possible.

For her birthday, she was given a couple of princess dresses to play in. She was ecstatic!

Soon I realized this was pretend play I actually enjoyed playing with her. We’d get dressed up together and she’d let me put up her hair and pretend makeup. Then we dance and sing songs from the movies and act out scenes.

little girl pretend playing as princess

Challenge To Pretend Play More

I challenge you, this week, in the midst of so much adult worry and self-consciousness, to put it aside and pretend with your child. From ages 2-elementary school, most kids love to play pretend of some sort.

Find something you can both get into. For me, Disney was a huge part of my childhood and the songs bring back a nostalgia in me unlike anything else. That’s why pretending to be a princess is easier for me than making the Duckies say hello to each other over and over. But maybe you like Duckies, or Puppies. Maybe you want to dress up as super heroes and fly around the room, bounding over tall pillows! Or maybe you just want to load the Dolly up in the stroller and take her for a walk. Maybe there’s something you already do with your child for role-playing. I’d love to hear about it! I always need new ideas.