Dramatic Play


Dramatic play is your baby engaging in pretend play as a way to explore his world.


Tyler’s aunt Olivia has made a sock puppet for Tyler. It is red, and she has glued big black but tons on it for eyes. Olivia decides that she will use her sock puppet to entertain her baby nephew by putting it on her hand and talking in a funny voice. Tyler absolutely loves it, letting out a belly laugh that can be heard by Mom in the kitchen.


Olivia is showing Tyler a dramatic play experience. Even though Tyler cannot verbally join in, he participates in the pretend play by laughing and responding to his aunt. Olivia, using tools (the sock and her voice) to play act, helps her nephew better understand how he can communicate with his aunt.

It is hard to imagine how dramatic play coincides with your baby’s development, but the foundations for dramatic play begin in infancy. Peek-a-boo games between you and your baby are an example of a dramatic play activity in which your baby enjoys the sudden appearance and disappearance of your face.

Dramatic play supports your baby in other areas of development:

Cognitive skills are developed as your baby comes to understand the environment through dramatic play opportunities.

Emotional development is supported as your baby uses pretend play to cope with fears and other emotions as he imitates you and your expression of feelings.

Social development is supported as your baby engages in pretend play with you. Babies imitate the social behaviors they see in their environment and then use these behaviors for future social interactions.

Motor skills are supported as your baby walks to push the play grocery cart or stands to play with a spoon.

Language skills grow as you engage in parallel talk by giving your baby the words for what he is doing.

When you take a peek-a-boo game and enhance it with the use of your infant’s familiar stuf fed animals, making them disappear and reappear, this is a simple example of introducing dramatic play into your baby’s environment. Adding animal sounds and changing the position where the animal disappears and reappears encourages visual tracing.

Parents can provide various play materials to support dramatic play:

From birth to three months, give your baby things to look at and listen to, such as hanging objects like lightweight scarves that are within view but not within reach. This will enable your infant to look, track, and identify objects in space.

When your baby is between two and six months, provide toys such as teethers and empty food cartons. You can allow your infant to follow his own interests with the toys or you can use them in responsive play with him.

During the three- to eight-month period, give small plastic wheeled toys, which will allow your baby to manipulate how the object moves. Join in play with him by pretending to drive the wheeled toy to a destination.

For the 8- to 12-month stage, small rocking horses and push toys are also great; your baby will learn about cause and effect as well as learn how things function and are best used.

Your baby will prefer to play with objects that look like the real things you use. Most of all, he will participate in dramatic play with your support and engagement. As your baby matures in age, he will imitate you and practice your roles.

There are many things a parent can do to promote dramatic play with their baby that do not require purchasing fancy toys and materials. Do some of the following and watch how your infant responds as you build a stronger bond together.

- Using a pair of old keys, sit with your baby and pretend to start a car and make the “vroom, vroom” noise. Then watch and see how your infant responds. Look to see if he tries to make similar noises.

- Show your baby his reflection in the mirror. Place various hats on his head and watch his response, then place hats on your head. Is your baby laughing or smiling?