Stimulating kids’ creativity is easier than you think! These fun role-playing ideas for kids can be as simple or elaborate as you’d like, using items you likely already have lying around the house. (If not, “making do” is great for young minds, too.)
Here are 50 unplugged solutions for hours of fun, cooperation, and imagination. Let your kids take these starters and run with them! Be sure to download our “Today, Let’s Play…” version for kids. Tape it inside a cupboard, and save it for an “I’m bored!” day.
1. Library: Kids can make library cards and a “scanner” (or whatever checkout method your local library uses), organize their books, or plan a read-aloud story time.
2. Zookeeper: Overturn some laundry baskets over stuffed animals, with a large bowl for some rubber duckies, food and water bowls, leashes, etc. Or let the kids be the animals!
3. Post office: Save envelopes from your junk mail, add some stickers for stamps. Have kids craft and decorate a mailbox out of a tissue box or shoebox, then write mail to deliver to family and friends.
4. Hair salon: Girls love grabbing their dolls, sticking them in a doll highchair, and going to town with some brushes and combs, hair clips/barrettes/etc., a spray bottle, and a bib or blanket as an apron.
5. Restaurant: Grab a memo pad, a towel for the waiter or waitress’ arm, an upturned cardboard box with some plastic lids attached for a stove, and kid-sized dishes … you get the idea.
6. Knights and maidens: Boys can make swords out of, well, anything; girls would love a manila-folder-turned-cone-shaped-princess-hat with a filmy scarf flowing out of the top—maybe with their own sword, too. And there’s always the old go-to broom-handle-turned-horse.
7. Factory: Grab some rinsed-out recycling—old containers, etc.—with some paper brads, masking tape, and other fairly harmless items to attach one thing to another. You might even give the kids a mission, like creating a boat, or a device to keep an egg from breaking when it’s dropped from counter height.
8. Kings and queens.
10. Tea party.
11. Airplane with pilot: Pull some chairs into two lines to look like an airplane cabin—or just enough chairs to look like a cockpit. Let the kids do the rest.
12. Train: Arrange chairs or laundry baskets as cars; office supply stores sell rolls of tickets. Better yet, have the kids make their own. Older kids can map out the routes of their train across the country.
13. Bank: Kids make their own paper “money” and use pennies, paper clips, etc. for coins. Explain terms like loan, teller, and interest.
14. Office: Load them up with old office supplies, something to resemble a computer (even a folded piece of cardboard can work, especially if they decorate it!), etc.
15. Laundry: Throw all the doll clothes into the washing machine—real or pretend. Let them hang clothes on a clothesline, “iron” the clothes, etc.
16. Circus: Grab hula hoops, stools, costumes, stuffed animals, even face paint and material for posters. What tricks will they perform? Surprise your kids with popcorn or peanuts for a snack, or let them fill paper bags that they place in a shallow box with a stapled-on strap (an instant vendor!).
17. Theater: This one has endless possibilities! Someone can make tickets, write a script, make costumes, make a set, etc. If you have a clothesline and a couple of sheets, a wide doorway, or just a bunk bed on which you can hang blankets—voila! Instant stage.
18. Puppet show.
19. Entrepeneur: Have your child think of something they would like to “sell” for a negligible amount (a penny, a nickel, a bottle cap) to family members, which they create. It might be stories they write, cookies they bake, pictures they draw, Lego creations they construct. Or you might let your child create a lemonade stand, or sell friends a dozen cookies for a low price that covers cost of goods.
20. Astronaut/space shuttle.
23. Veterinarian: Get out a doctor kit (or use an invisible one) and some stuffed animals as you give them a checkup on the kitchen table. Don’t forget the food and water bowls!
24. Grocery store: Grab some stickers, non-perishables, and some coins or fake money.
25. Race car/taxi driver: Two rows of two chairs with a plate for a steering wheel and you’re good! Wait till you hear the places your kids are “dropped off.”
26. School (the classic). Hey, your younger kids might even learn their ABC’s from the older siblings from this one!
27. Police/detective: Make up a story about a mystery that’s happened (gasp!) in your own home: stolen cookies, a broken vase. The kids will need to make up their own clues and ending. As a added challenge, kids can take turns leaving clues to the mystery around the house.
28. Newspaper: Let the kids pick roles of editor, reporter, layout artist, etc. They can put out their own paper on “current events” in your household and neighborhood.
29. Artist: Paint a landscape outside with an easel and paper plate “palette.”
30. Dance class.
31. Safari: Tape a couple of toilet paper tubes together to make some binoculars. Kids can be the explorers—or the animals!
32. President/vice president.
33. Act out a Bible story!
34. Band: Make instruments out of household items and recyclable containers. Have a showtime, and don’t forget the posters!
35. Radio show.
36. Act out your favorite fairy tale or children’s book.
37. Secret mission: Dress as spies. Make an imaginary mission. Or try a real one—how many trash cans can they swipe and empty without you seeing them?
39. Missionary: Be a missionary pilot; feed people some rice, or teach them to read; teach people about the Bible; translate Bible verses into a new “language” made up by your child. Or maybe your child is a missionary in a closed country, so they have to hold an underground church in the closet or basement. Locate countries on a map—maybe with missionaries from your church—learn about them, and pray for them (for real!).
40. Construction: Consider having your child make “buildings” with cushions, chairs, and household items.
41. Camping: You can create the classic bedsheet-over-the-table tent, or make it as elaborate as you want with flashlights, stuffed “wild” animals, backpacks, canteens, hiking around the house, s’mores in the microwave, sleeping bags, or a picnic lunch.
42. Sailors: Laundry baskets are great for this, or even just a porch with a rail to mount a flag. Find a recipe for hard tack; bring out some suitcases; swab the deck with a mop; use paper towel tubes as telescopes. Let them “fish” over the side with sticks and string or ribbon. Make sailor hats from online templates. Get out a map, decide on an ocean to sail, and learn to use a compass.
43. Act out a favorite story from history.
44. Pioneers/Little House on the Prairie.
45. Garbage truck: Form “straps” on the top of an open cardboard box using pieces of duct tape stuck together, and put the cardboard box (decorated to look like a truck) over your child’s head in a similar fashion to a sandwich board. Have him or her “drive” around the house to grab trash cans and empty them in a larger waste bin.
46. Sunday School.
47. DIY Carnival: Have your kids create games, prizes, and tickets. This role play might be a good one for involving the neighbor kids!
48. Author/illustrator: Grab a sheaf of white paper; fold in half and staple. Add a construction paper cover if you’d like.
49. Farmer: Feed some animals—stuffed or real. Plant some seeds. Sit in a cardboard box or chair “tractor.” Rake or dig something.
50. Boot Camp: Set up an “obstacle course” of pillows, cushions, and chairs inside, or whatever your yard allows outside. One child may time the others with a stopwatch or kitchen timer.