When Do Babies Pretend Play?

Learn about: “When do babies pretend play in their development?” Find out what activities can help them develop their ability to engage in imaginative play.

When Do Babies Pretend Play?

Having a little one around is always a joy, but their behaviors can often leave us scratching our heads and wondering what’s going on. One of the most intriguing developments in your baby’s behavior that you may have noticed already or will observe soon enough is when they start to pretend to play. Pretend play marks an important milestone as it illustrates how much more advanced and complex your baby’s cognitive processes are becoming. 

But when do babies pretend play and is this something to be concerned about if it hasn’t started yet? 

Between the ages of 18 to 24 months, children will start imitating adults and pretending with toys. Watch as they feed their dolls or have their dolls tidy up after playtime. It’s an exciting milestone in your child’s development.

In this post, we’ll discuss why pretend play matters for development, what signs to look out for, when usually occurs in infants’ lives, and tips for encouraging such activities with younger children.

The Development of Pretend Play

Ages 0 to 18 months:

Even the youngest babies can benefit from pretend play. Engage in conversation with your baby and imitate their sounds to encourage interaction. Introduce brightly colored toys that are safe for them to explore with their mouths. Sing songs and do accompanying actions to stimulate their imagination.

Ages 18 to 24 months:

During this stage, children begin to engage in simple pretend play. They will mimic actions on toys or other people. Watch as they feed their dolls or make them clean up. This is a prime time to introduce dress-up and role-play to facilitate the development of fantasy play.

Ages 2 to 3 years:

With a higher capacity for pretend play, toddlers can start combining actions into sequences. Offer guidance as they navigate unfamiliar situations by role-playing upcoming events or visiting new places. Encourage social play by setting up tea parties or dance parties with stuffed animals and other objects.

Ages 3 to 5 years:

By this age, children can let their imaginations run wild. They can come up with their scenarios and fantasies. Keep an eye on their safety, but let them take the lead in play. They will be more interested in fantasy and will mimic what they’ve seen in books and on TV. Embrace their creativity and participate in their playtime adventures.

So, When Do Babies Pretend Play?  

When Do Babies Pretend Play

The answer to the question “When do babies pretend play?” can vary. Each child develops at their own pace, but typically children will start engaging in simple forms of pretend play by the age of 18 months and continue to develop this skill until they are around 5 years old. However, there is no need to worry if your little one hasn’t started to pretend play by the recommended age range. Every child is unique and will develop at their own pace. The most important thing is to provide opportunities for imaginative and pretend play, as it can greatly benefit their cognitive, social, and emotional development. 

What to Look Out for

Each child is different and develops at their own pace. However, there are certain signs that your baby may be ready to start pretending and engaging in imaginative play.


Does your child mimic actions or behaviors they have seen? If they are imitating feeding a doll or “cooking” in a toy kitchen, this is a sign they are starting to pretend play.


Watch your child’s interactions with toys and others. If they assign roles to objects, such as making a stuffed animal the “mommy” or themselves the “doctor,” this is an indication of fantasy play development.

Use of symbols:

When children start using objects to represent other things, it’s a sign of their growing imagination. This could be using a block as a phone or using a toy car to represent real cars.

Encouraging Pretend Play

If your child is not engaging in pretend play yet, don’t worry. Each child develops at their own pace and may take longer to show interest in imaginative play. Here are some tips for encouraging such activities with younger children:

Set the stage:

Create an environment that encourages imaginative play. Have a dedicated dress-up area or set up a play kitchen or store for your child to “shop” in.

Lead by example:

Children learn best from observation and imitation. Show them how to use toys in pretend play, initiate role-playing situations, and participate in their games.

Read and watch stories:

Reading books or watching TV shows about imaginative and fantasy worlds can spark your child’s creativity and inspire them to engage in pretend play. 

Provide open-ended toys:

Toys that allow for open-ended play, such as building blocks or dolls, can encourage your child to come up with their scenarios and use their imagination. 


Pretend play is an important developmental milestone for children and occurs at different stages in their lives. Each child develops at their own pace, so there is no need to worry if your little one hasn’t started to pretend play yet. 

However, providing opportunities for imaginative and pretend play can greatly benefit your child’s cognitive, social, and emotional development. So, encourage and participate in your child’s pretend play adventures and watch as their imagination grows.  

So, keep an eye out for the signs mentioned above, and remember to lead by example and create a stimulating environment for your child to engage in imaginative play. With a little encouragement, your child will soon embark on exciting make-believe adventures!  

So let’s continue to nurture our child’s imagination and creativity through pretend play. Let the make-believe adventures begin! Happy playing! 

Thanks for reading our article When Do Babies Pretend Play? If you want to know more information, visit our website here.

Read more:

How Much Pretend Play is Normal?

Easy Magna Tiles Ideas

How to Encourage Pretend Play in Babies and Toddlers

What to expect as toddler imagination develops

Leave a Comment