Dramatic play toys for preschoolers

Dramatic play toys (or “pretend play toys”) are toys that encourage role-playing and imaginative play. They are an important part of every dramatic play center.

So, if you’re looking for some great dramatic play toys for preschoolers, look no further! We’ve gathered together a list of some of the best toys for encouraging imaginative play. From dress-up clothes to kitchen sets, these toys will help your child explore new roles and worlds.

Here’s what we will cover in this post:

What is dramatic play?

Dramatic play is a type of pretend play in which children take on the roles of characters, people or animals and act out scenes from their imagination. It is an important part of early childhood development, as it helps children to learn about themselves and the world around them. 

Dramatic play occurs when children adopt roles and use make-believe transformations to act out stories

James F. Christie

Why is dramatic play important for preschoolers? 

Dramatic play is important for preschoolers as it helps them to develop important life skills. Through pretend play, children learn how to communicate with others while developing language skills, resolving conflicts, and thinking creatively. Additionally, dramatic play helps children to understand and express their emotions. It also promotes physical development as children use their bodies to move and explore their environment. Furthermore, dramatic play encourages cognitive development as children use symbols and objects for role play to represent people, places, and things. 

And, depending on the types of toys they are playing with in their dramatic play center, they may have all the right tools to develop fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and more! For example: If they are playing with a pretend cash register, they are learning all of the skills above while also practicing math.

Thus, dramatic play is an important part of early childhood development as it helps children to learn essential life skills.

Types of dramatic play toys that are perfect for preschoolers

Many different types of dramatic play toys are perfect for preschoolers. One type of toy is a dress-up doll (or a doll house). These dolls come in many different styles, such as princesses, fairies, and mermaids. Dress-up dolls are a great way for preschoolers to imagine themselves in different roles. Finally, you could include babies that kids can care for. This is a great practice in empathy as they pretend to care for a baby. A note on this: Create an inclusive dollhouse by including multi-ethnic dolls!

Another type of toy that is perfect for preschoolers is a play kitchen. Play kitchens come in many different styles and sizes, and they provide a great way for preschoolers to explore their imaginations. Play kitchens include all of the accessories that a real kitchen has, such as pots and pans, dishes, a tea set, and utensils. They may be functional or non-functional, and accessories vary from set to set.

Play sets are also super fun for toddlers. Play sets come in many different themes, such as castles, farms, and houses. Play sets provide a great way for preschoolers to pretend to be in different places and scenarios. You can also include a themed puzzle or two to teach about specific things like a doctor-themed puzzle to teach about anatomy.

Finally, another wonderful addition to your dramatic play center are toys that replicate real-life tasks. For example, there are cute mini-cleaning sets (like this one by Melissa and Doug) that let your little ones help their parents out around the house. Another great addition are interest-based games and toys. Say your child is really into building, fixing, or playing school – Adding imaginative play toys that are tailored to their interests will inspire them (and keep them entertained longer).

How to set up a dramatic play area in your home or classroom

Dramatic play is an important part of early childhood development. It helps children to develop social and communication skills, as well as explore different roles and emotions.

Here are some tips on how to do it:

1. Choose a designated area: The first step is to choose a designated area for your dramatic play space. This could be a corner of a room or even an outdoor space. Make sure the area is large enough for children to move around freely and have plenty of props and furniture.

2. Furnish the space: Once you have the space chosen, it’s time to start furnishing it. Look for props and furniture that will encourage pretend play. Dolls, toy cars, kitchen sets, and dress-up clothes are all great options. Or, DIY it with whatever you already have available!

3. Add some natural and or/personalized elements: To make the space more inviting, add some natural elements such as plants or flowers. You could also hang some pictures or artwork on the walls.

Ideas for dramatic play scenarios that will engage and entertain your preschoolers

If you’re looking for ideas for dramatic play scenarios that will engage and entertain your preschoolers, you’ve come to the right place! Here are a few of our favorites:

  1. Create a grocery store: Stock a shelf with non-perishable goods and let your little ones “shop” for their favorite items. They can use play money to “pay” for their purchases. You can also get sets that come with pretend food.
  2. Set up a dress-up area: Include a variety of clothes, shoes, hats, and accessories for your child to try on. Encourage them to be creative and come up with their unique outfits.
  3. Put on a puppet show: Collect a variety of puppets and create a fun story for them to act out. Your child can be the puppeteer or one of the characters in the show.
  4. Have a tea party: Set out a small table and chairs for your child and their stuffed animals or dolls. Serve to pretend tea and snacks and enjoy a leisurely conversation with your little ones.
  5. Build a fort: Use sheets, blankets, and furniture to create a secret hideaway. Camp out in the fort with your child and tell stories or look at books together.

These are just 5 ideas… But there are so many more possibilities! When designing your dramatic play center, ask your little learners what they would like to pretend play. Encourage children to use their creativity to imagine a new world. This will include them in the process, giving them ownership over the space.

And, of course, make sure to always supervise small children when they are playing with small toys!

Child pretending to play cashier with pretend food for sale
Dramatic play toys for preschoolers

The benefits of dramatic play for preschoolers

We’ve already mentioned a few reasons why pretend play toys are important, but let’s recap!

Dramatic play is an important part of every preschooler’s life. It helps them to develop their imagination, learn new skills like cooperation and communication, and build confidence. Little learners also develop skills specific to the fun set they are enjoying, whether that be mathematical skills (by making change in a cash register) or empathy (by caring for pretend dolls or pets), just to name two.

Whether they are playing with puppets, dolls, or dress-up clothes, all preschoolers can benefit from the power of pretend play. So encourage your child to use their imagination, and watch as they learn and grow in leaps and bounds.

Frequently asked questions

What toys should be in a dramatic play area?

Anything that encourages imaginative play! Children act things out all the time. Having toys like a cash register, a dress-up bin, or a pretend school are all examples of toys that let them practice creativity while reimagining the world around them.

What are dramatic play areas for preschoolers?

Dramatic play areas are spaces where kids can pretend, play, practice social skills, and develop their creativity. The area does not need to be complex – It can be simple and DIY’d, or you can buy already-made play sets.

What kinds of items do preschoolers use for pretend play?

Anything that will inspire them! This will be different for every child depending on their interests. Kids are already super creative, but you can complete the space by including toys that will jump-start their imagination like pretend tools, pretend food, or toys for a pretend house.


We’ve got a few other posts about children’s toys that you may be interested in. Here’s a few we recommend reading:


Christie, J. F. (1990). Dramatic Play: A Context for Meaningful Engagements. The Reading Teacher, 43(8), 542–545. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20200471

Other activities for kids

Looking for more articles about activities and play? Check out the category below!

Elke Crosson
Elke Crosson

Elke Crosson has her BA in International Relations with a minor in Spanish at UBC (Okanagan). She is currently in her second year of the Master of Teaching program at the University of Toronto, with dreams of becoming an elementary-level teacher.

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