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Creature Play

  • Age: 0 to 8+
  • Time: 1 hour+
  • Materials: paper towel roll, fabric scraps, piece of cardboard, scissors, holepuncher, twine or yarn

Pretend play is central to kids’ early learning and is simply fun! The addition of a simple prop or costume may be all your child needs to jump right into active imaginative play. In this activity we share three of our favorite simple props to spark pretend play and help kids take on the perspective of other creatures.

The Guide

Create animal props: Say, “Would you like to make something you could wear to help you pretend to be an animal?” Invite your child to tell you what animal they would like to pretend to be and work together to think through what materials you could use to make one of the animal’s body parts. Need ideas? Try out one or more of our favorite creature props:

  • Bird beak: Find a toilet paper tube or cut ¼ of a paper towel tube. On one end of the tube, cut out a U-shape on both sides to create the illusion of an open beak. On the other end of the tube, use a holepuncher or scissors to make a hole underneath each “U”. Cut 2 pieces of yarn or twine, each about 1 foot long and tie one end of each string onto each hole. Kids wear their beak by placing the tube over their mouth or nose and tying the two ends of the twine behind their head.
  • Butterfly wings: To make butterfly wings out of fabric, gather fabric in the middle and tie a piece of yarn or twine around the center and then tie the loose ends around your child’s waist. Gather the top two ends of the fabric and tie each one with a piece of yarn and then around each of your child’s wrists. To make wings out of paper, cut out wing shapes from a paper bag or piece of cardboard, leaving the two sides of the wings connected. Use scissors to cut two holes in the middle of the wings. Then, thread twine or yarn through the holes and tie around the waist. Kids can use paint or markers to decorate their butterfly wings, too!
  • Beaver tail: Use this template (or create your own) to cut a beaver-shaped tail out of cardboard. (Optional) Use a marker to add diagonal lines across the tail to resemble the markings on a beaver’s tail. Use a holepuncher or scissors to make two holes on either side of one end of the tail. Thread a piece of twine or yarn (about 2.5-3 feet long) through the holes. Kids can wear their beaver tail by tying the twine around their waist.

Pretend! Spark play by asking your child how this animal likes to move. What sounds does this animal make to communicate? Kids can pretend to search for their creature’s favorite foods or use objects from nature to build a creature home.

Extend: Kids can also have an animal race while wearing their creature costume or create an obstacle course in which they have to move like their animal while they complete the course.

Why is this activity great for kids?

Pretending to be a creature is a super way for kids to take on another’s perspective, a cornerstone of cognitive empathy. Adding a simple prop is an easy way to get the pretend play rolling and support kids’ imagination and creativity.

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