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Here are just a few ideas to help you get going with creative and imaginative play. There are many, many more ideas that you will likely come up with.
Remember that half the fun is setting things up or getting dressed up; the other half is playing out or acting out the various roles and creating the story itself. Stories can be continued from one play session to the next.
Doctor’s Office, Hospital or Veterinary Clinic
Use a play medical kit on dolls or stuffed animals as patients. Or a parent could be a patient. Find something to use as an ambulance. Send patients home with a prescription or a note to come back for a check up. Use a small box as an x-ray machine and draw the x-rays. Provide real bandaids, masking tape (for casts), popsicle sticks (for splints), cotton puffs and kleenex. Towels and facecloths can be beds; laundry baskets can be animal cages.
Dress up as king, queen, prince, princess, knight, wizard, witch, fairy, elves, dragons, etc. Fun props include swords, shields, magic wands, crowns, hats, capes, and jewelry. Or use small toy figures as the characters. Set up different spots for castles, caves, hiding places or dens. Make up fantasy stories that include good and evil sides.
Dress up as astronauts and aliens. Or use small astronaut and alien figures. Find something to be a space ship. Set up different space stations on friendly and hostile planets. Set up various missions: to explore new worlds, to protect a vulnerable colony from dangerous aliens, etc.
Set up items to sell. Use old wallets or purses. Use something for a cash register and make or buy play money. Write up bills and receipts on small paper. Customers can take items home and set them up at home.
Picnic, Dinner or Party
Invite stuffed animals, dolls, etc. Set up the place settings using plates, utensils, tablecloth, napkins, flowers. Use play food and empty food containers. Or, make food out of playdough, for example make cookies using cookie cutters, birthday cakes with decorations and candles. Find something to use as a stove or oven. Use old kitchen spoons and a pot. Have something unexpected happen such as: a storm comes during the picnic, someone spills the food on the floor, someone unexpected comes for dinner, someone has a surprise party, etc.
Use play food and empty food containers. Or, make food out of playdough. Find something to use as a stove or oven. Use old kitchen spoons and a pot. Set up the place settings using plates, utensils, tablecloth, napkins, flowers. Make up a menu. Use a small memo pad to take orders and to write bills for customers. Find something to use as a cash register and make or buy play money. Roles could be restaurant owner or chef, cashier, cranky customer, happy customer, clumsy waiter, clumsy or messy customer, etc.
Theatre Performance, Music Group or Orchestra
Set up a play or a show. Set up a small theatre or stage using fabric pieces for curtains. Puppets, stuffed animals, or kids can be actors. Create an orchestra with musical instruments. Use stuffed animals or dolls as the players. Someone can be the conductor. Have an audience of people, animals or dolls. Sell tickets to the concert.
Create Your Own Town, Farm, Fort, Space Outpost, Fantasy Land
Set things up on the floor. Use boxes, lego, or blocks for buildings or various structures. Find something to use for fences or barriers, mountains, caves or hiding places, water (such as rivers, lakes, or oceans), trees and flowers. Use cars, trucks, vehicles, airplanes, boats, etc. These can be the settings for unlimited imaginative play scenarios involving various roles such as vulnerable people, dangerous situations (natural disasters) or people (attackers, bad guys, monsters, etc.) coming in from outside, protective and rescue people, mastermind strategists and planners, teams or groups working together cooperatively, etc.
Create Your Own House or School
Use boxes for the buildings. Use a felt pen to draw the rooms on the inside of the box. Parents can cut out windows and doors. Use lego, smaller boxes, or blocks for furniture. Use fabric scraps for carpets, blankets, curtains. Put a family in the house and some children and a teacher in the school. Make an outdoor playground. Create various play scenarios such as a normal day at home or school, conflict and resolution in the schoolyard, moving to a new home, etc.
Make Up Your Own Games
Use items like foam (nerf) balls and a foam bat, indoor bowling set, ring toss, velcro darts, indoor basketball hoop for the back of the door, for example, and make up your own rules with these items. Be flexible and creative with the rules; rules can change and adapt as the play goes along. The idea is not to stick to one set of rules.
Determine where your art area will be and organize your art materials in this one place for easy access. Felt pens and crayons in one container. Glue, scissors, tape and miscellaneous other items in other containers. Have lots of sizes and colors of paper available. The easier it is to set up and clean up, the more useful this area will be.