Play ideas for kids

Last Updated on June 13, 2024

Are you looking for a great way to keep your kids busy and help them learn imaginative play? In this updated post, we’re sharing over 50 fun role play ideas that will help your kids learn to pass the time, and even get mom a few breaks in the day, too!

Do you remember the days of pretend play when you were a kid? Somewhere along the way as iPads, every new television show and our digital world have been growing, our kids seem to be doing role play activities less and less. Have you noticed?

But good news moms, 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.)

What is the benefit of role play for kids?

Did you know according to studies by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) , play can help to improve our kids problem-solving skills, communication skills, language skills and social skills?

If you’re ready to help your kids develop their fine motor skills and you’d like to keep them off of screens for awhile, you’re in luck. There’s an endless amounts of play potential to be had when you look for it.

Here are 50 unplugged solutions for hours of fun, cooperation, and imagination. Let your kids take these starters and run with them!

Want to take this list with you on the go? Be sure to download our free eBook Today, Let’s Play: 50+ Fun Role-Playing Ideas for Kids. Tape it inside a cupboard, and save it for an “I’m bored!” day.

Here are some easy role play topics you can try today!

Looking for even more boredom busters? Here’s what to do when your child says “There’s nothing to do.”

Fun Role-Playing Ideas for Kids

1. Library: Role-Playing 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. This a classic role-play scenario where kids can take turns ruling the kingdom and helping their subjects. Cute costumes like crowns, robes and dress-up dresses add to the fun!

9. Army.  Invite your kids to play army. They can come up with military drills, march around the house or neighborhood and fight and win battles – no bad guys required. 

10. Tea party. Little kids traditionally love a tea party, but this can be fun for older children too! Let them make their own little sandwiches and snacks to share, and even make some actual (not-so hot) tea with adult supervision. 

Role playing ideas kids

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 driver: 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.

Role-Playing Ideas for Kids

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. If you have older children, invite them to put on a puppet show for your younger ones! You can use anything from old socks to brown paper lunch bags to create your own customizable puppets. Then have them stand behind a couch or a table with a tablecloth and let the show begin! 

19. Entrepreneur: 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. Blast off to a new galaxy and watch your child’s imagination soar as they take on a new planet in space! If you have a few cardboard boxes laying around, you can even use the to build your kids a rocket ship to take them into outerspace. Share some fun facts about space with your kids beforehand if you know any!

21. Aliens. When they get to outerspace, maybe your kids can meet aliens! Help acquaint them to human things, and learn all about alien life, too.

22. Hospital. Everyday objects from around the house can become hospital tools for play! Bonus points if you have any white coats laying around. 

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!

25. Grocery store: Grab some stickers, non-perishables, and some coins or fake money.

26. 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.”

27. School (the classic). Hey, your younger kids might even learn their ABC’s from the older siblings from this one!

28. Police officer/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.

30. 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.

Kids play ideas

31. Artist: Paint a landscape outside with an easel and paper plate “palette.”

32. Dance class. This is a fun way to get out a little extra energy, especially on a rainy day! You can even create a playlist for your kids with some of their favorite songs and add in glow sticks for fun if you have them. 

33. Safari: Tape a couple of toilet paper tubes together to make some binoculars. Kids can be the explorers—or the animals!

34. President/vice president. Let your kids take turns making laws and ruling the house – as long as they don’t forget who is really in charge. 

35. Act out a Bible story! Do your kids have a favorite story from the Bible? Have them act it out in a fun role-playing game. Some fun ones to play would be Jonah and the Whale, Moses and the Red Sea and Noah and the Ark. The ideas for play really are endless.

36. Band: Make instruments out of household items and recyclable containers. Have a showtime, and don’t forget the posters!

37. Radio show. Your kids can sing their favorite songs and talk about them and interview each other in between on their radio show! 

38. Act out your favorite fairy tale or children’s book. Have your children grab some of their favorite books off the bookshelf and act them out as best as they can. 

39. 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?

40. Firefighters. There’s a fire and people need to be rescued, fast! Some of your kids’ teddy bears make for great subjects to save in a fire emergency. 

41. 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!).

42. Construction worker: Consider having your child make “buildings” with cushions, chairs, and household items.

Role-Playing Kids

43. 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.

44. 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.

45. Act out a favorite story from history. Think about things that have happened throughout history and have your kids pretend that they’re there to experience it all. 

46. Pioneers/Little House on the Prairie. Have your kids pretend they’ve stepped foot in a new land for the first time. They have to build shelter, gather food and create a new home for themselves. 

47. 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.

48. Sunday School. Pull out a children’s bible or any other bible-based tools you have and invite your kids to teach each other a Sunday school lesson. 

49. DIY Carnival: Have your kids create games, prizes, and tickets. This role play might be a good one for involving the neighbor kids!

50. Author/illustrator: Grab a sheaf of white paper; fold in half and staple. Add a construction paper cover if you’d like.

51. Farmer: Feed some animals—stuffed or real. Plant some seeds. Sit in a cardboard box or chair “tractor.” Rake or dig something.

52. 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.

53. Treasure Hunt: If The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything sent your boys into a never-ending pirates phase, too (“RRRR! It’s a fine day at sea, Mom!”), or if your kids have that innate love for adventure and exploration, maybe your kids will have a blast with this like mine did! Bonus: It also gives them beginning map-reading, direction-following, problem-solving, and spatial skills.

  • Choose and hide a treasure. Surprise older kids; let younger kids know what they’ll be looking for (can be something new, a toy they like, or a piece of candy).
  • Draw a simple map. For younger kids, draw a dotted line as a path to take.
  •  If they’re into it, encourage costumes. Nothing like looking the part of a treasure hunter, pirate, explorer, etc.
  • After round one, consider switching sides: You’re the explorer! Some preschoolers will be able to draw a crude map for you … and who knows what treasure may show up that you thought was lost. (“My cell phone!!”)

With all of these great ideas in your back pocket, you shouldn’t need to hear “I’m bored” for quite awhile. But we also can’t promise you that your house need a little clean up when they’re done. Still… totally worth it! Now let’s go moms and help our kids to learn how to play! 

Get our free role-playing kids PDF right here!

Have any other great role-playing ideas for kids? We’d love to hear them! Feel free to add yours to list through the comment section below!

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  1. Those are great, Janel! When my kids were younger, one of their favorites was opening the kitchen window to the deck and playing drive-thru.

  2. Awesome idea, Kristin. Keep ’em comin’!

  3. Jerneal Gelfman says:

    Lots of super ideas! Thanks for sharing.