Many of you are grandparents of grandchildren between the ages of two and seven. You have seen these enchanting children engage in dramatic play, and most likely, you have participated and even taken on fantasy roles to encourage their creativity and imagination. What a delight it is to see their little minds work.

Pretend play is important to a child’s language and cognitive development. At first children will use a few words, then full sentences, and then you will see them create characters, set themes, and engage in imaginary full-length conversations. As you hear them interact with the various characters they creatively assemble in everyday situations like school, the doctor’s office, the dentist, playground, a friend’s home, pay attention to their thoughts and their ideas. Even ask thoughtful questions.

One of the best things you can do as a grandparent is to encourage this play and stock your home with the tools to generate imagination. Here are multiple items that will interest and appeal to your kiddos:

A doctor/dentist’s office: It may be worth it to “invest” in a play doctor’s kit, since it can provide hours of play. Additionally, have a little box filled with colorful bandaids, a notebook and pen, and toilet paper (for wrapping an imaginary wound).  Of course, you will need stuffed animals or dolls who can be the ‘patients’, whenever you are not the patient!

School scenario: A dry-erase board and washable markers are invaluable for this setting, or anytime. Additionally it is wonderful to have: a blackboard and chalk (unless your grandchild is allergic to chalk/chalk dust), books, paper, crayons, pencils, pens, stickers, a calculator, ruler, children’s size scissors, rubber stamps and ink pad, and dolls and stuffed animals.

Construction play: If you have toy cars and trucks, then you are well on your way here. However, if you have boxes in multiples sizes, milk cartons, cereal boxes small and large, egg containers, blocks, Legos, then you really are set. A small box can become a building, and a large box can even be turned in to a ‘vehicle’. Plastic household containers are great too, and get a tool set from the toy store. Again, animals and dolls may interact here.

Dress-Up: Fill a suitcase or bucket with all kinds of items, like boas, a crown, cowboy hat, fireman hat, a construction helmet, a cape (to play superman or superwoman!), costumes, funny shoes, fancy shoes, purses, jewelry, a white shirt to play Doctor, any kind of clothing that makes your grandchild squeal with delight.

Let YOUR imagination run wild as you create a space for your grandchildren to develop their creativity! They won’t want to leave your house, and they’ll be even more excited to return.