Guest Post: Encouraging Imaginative Play For Pre-schoolers During The Festive Period

play sceneGuest Post by Anna Taylor, Research Assistant at Fundamentally Children


Pre-schoolers just love make-believe play. They have wonderful imaginations that can really bring their stories to life, whether they’re playing on their own, with friends or alongside siblings. Here are a few ideas to inspire imaginative play – you’ll be amazed where their games lead to.

Setting the scene for small world play

Let it snow

This is a lovely simple way to bring Christmas into imaginative play. Transform your child’s existing play set (e.g. trains or houses) by topping them with cotton wool – you can gently pull it apart to get lots of snow drifts. Set them along the roof, on the train tracks, etc. the night before. In the morning let your little one know that it’s snowed on their play-set and show them the snowy surprise.

snow sceneCreate a miniature winter wonderland

Tape some white paper on a table or tray. On top of this, add in some cotton wool balls for snow drifts, pine cones or twigs for trees, foil for an ice skating rink and anything else you might have around the house that could make your snowy scene (pine needles add a Christmassy scent if you can get hold of some). Introduce some small figures (both people and animals will work well) and let your child explore.

Christmassy characters

Use wooden dolly pegs and some paper, fabric or felt to create any number of Christmas characters to inspire some themed play. You could make the three wise men from the nativity, or Santa Claus and his elves. These dolls can be added to the miniature winter wonderland too.

Christmas themed role play

Santa’s work shop

Turn your pre-schooler into a little elf by setting up Santa’s workshop in your own home. You can have one table for ‘making’ the toys – give your child a box of their own toys and some pretend tools (e.g. a plastic hammer, a paintbrush with pretend paint tray, etc.) and let them pretend to make their toys. On another table provide some boxes, tape, bows and pieces of Christmas wrapping paper so they can wrap the toys when they’re done ready for Santa to deliver. If your child is learning to write you could also give them tags and a pencil so they put the recipient’s name on each present.

Build an igloo

Pop a white sheet on the ground and two or three chairs back to back on top, with a second white sheet draped over the top. You can add a pop-up tunnel to make the entrance to the igloo. Inside the igloo you can put some Christmas books, crayons and paper, or maybe set up a festive picnic with a few cuddly toys. This can also make a cosy setting for Santa’s workshop.

play dohModelling dough Christmas biscuits

Give your little one a selection of modelling dough in different colours (there are lots of recipes online to make your own). Give them some Christmas biscuit cutters so they can cut out and decorate their biscuits. If they have a play kitchen they could pop them in the pretend oven too. Once ‘baked’, the biscuits can be fed to cuddly toys while listening to a Christmas story.

Whatever you and your pre-schooler get up to this Christmas, we hope you have a wonderful time.


Fundamentally Children is an organisation dedicated to helping children develop skills through play. We provide independent expert advice on a range of topics including play, toys, apps, children’s tech, e-safety, child development, special needs and other parenting issues. The company was founded by child psychologist and regular media spokesperson, Dr Amanda Gummer.

Fundamentallychildren.com is the home of the Good Toy and App Guides and Fundamentally Children Endorsed as well as a raft of other useful advice for parents, carers and childcare professionals.

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