Pretend play with toddlers

by Naomi Sherwood. Enjoy some imaginative play with your toddler. They'll love drawing faces and having fun with puppets.

Woman holding smiling baby to her face


Children between the ages of two and three love making things and they also love imaginative (pretend) play - perhaps being the mummy to their doll or running around pretending to be noisy lions or superheroes.

They’re becoming more curious about other people’s feelings too, e.g. they’re starting to notice when other children are happy or upset, and they are often fascinated by facial expressions.

How CBeebies can help

You can encourage their creativity and pretend play by making puppets and creating funny faces together.

Why not head over to the Jackanory Junior web pages and click on the Make & Colour section? In there, you’ll find details of how to make your very own puppet theatre. Or you could click through to the Tikkabilla pages and have a go at making some Animal Finger Faces (they’re just made out of small pieces of card and sticky circles). Put them on your fingertips and put on a show!

You could also have fun playing the Bobinogs ‘Foody Face’ game on the CBeebies website. The activity simply involves making a food face out of pieces of fruit and vegetables by clicking different buttons on the screen.

How to make a magic moment

Have a giggle together making funny faces out of play dough or by using fruit and veg (e.g. grapes for eyes, a small potato for a nose and a banana for a mouth).

If you have a bit more time to spare, why not sit down with them and make some finger puppets together. Or you could act out some role play scenarios with some cuddly toys. If your child loves moulding shapes out of play dough, you could have some fun together creating some silly faces.

You can draw a recognisable puppet or face whilst your toddler experiments with making marks or squeezing the play dough. If they do want to make their own one too, you can really help by encouraging them and accepting their creation, however it turns out!

You can also talk about whether your puppets and play dough faces are happy or sad, you can have fun making them go down a pretend slide or whizz through the air. Or maybe your child likes singing and wants them to join in with a song. Follow your toddler’s lead and enjoy sharing adventures with your puppets and faces.

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Top tips

  • If you enjoy the activity, your child will too. Make the faces, puppets and adventures as silly as you like!Your toddler might find it funny if your puppet does the same thing again and again. It’s normal to learn through some repetitive play at this stage.Older children might enjoy making puppets too - and inventing adventures for them.Creating the puppets and faces doesn’t have to cost a penny. Use old scraps of paper, card and old cardboard tubes, and pieces of fruit and veg or dried pasta shapes. Have fun experimenting!

Parent's tale

I make funny faces with new foods for my 2 year-old to try, e.g. a red pepper for a smile, carrot stick for nose and cucumber for eyes.

I change the foods each time but my son still thinks he is eating a funny face. Pretend play and a way to introduce little ones to new foods!

Alex, From Warrington

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