Your preschooler is at the perfect age to begin playing pretend—an age-appropriate way to practice skills that will be useful in adult life, plus it can be extremely fun!

Through role-play, a child can practice acting out job skills, interacting with peers, rehearsing polite language and listening, processing recent interactions, problem-solving, and using nonverbal communication.

Ideas for Encouraging Role-Play

  • After visiting a workplace such as the grocery store or a restaurant, invite your child to role-play the interactions you witnessed together.
  • If you see and hear a few children role-playing, ask your child to come closer to listen. Help her choose a role she could play and jump into the storyline.
  • Provide your child with materials, resources, or ingredients that promote and inspire role-playing. She can act as a baker with an apron, cake mix ingredients, mixing bowl, spoon, cake pan, and supervised access to the oven. She can act as a writer with a brailler and her own imaginative story.

How to Inspire Career Education Through Role-Play

  • Teach job-specific skills through pretend play. Examples include answering the telephone, using technology such as a voice recorder, planning an activity, presenting to a small group, computing mathematics, or directing a group.
  • Model social interactions. Suggestions include asking the “coworkers” about their weekends, welcoming the “customer” into the store, and conversing about common duties or interests.
  • Demonstrate proper manners and good listening skills. Say “excuse me” when you sneeze, pretend to knock on the door of the office before entering, discuss the personal space you are giving to your child, avoid interrupting, offer assistance with difficult tasks, assume responsibility for mistakes, say “please” and “thank you,” clean up after messes, and share ways to handle difficulties.
  • Encourage your child to imitate working people she encounters. This is an opportunity to teach her the job functions of specific occupations. When possible, provide clothing or props for your child to use when in the role.
  • Create work-related problems that you and your child can solve together. For example, a hotel guest can be unsatisfied with a room. Help her think through the problem-solving process: find out the specific problem, brainstorm solutions, determine the best solution by weighing the pros and cons, and attempt to solve the problem. If the problem is not yet solved, problem-solve once more. (See APH CareerConnect’s Problem Solving lesson series .)
  • Let your child know the nonverbal communication you are displaying. Tell her about your smile, eye contact, and gestures. Describe the nonverbal communication you observe in her. Encourage her appropriate nonverbal communication and help her think of alternatives to inappropriate postures, gestures, and expressions.