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Fire Up Your Imagination!

Toddler boy pretending to be a firefighter

Clang! Clang! Clang! Here comes a brave little firefighter to save the day! Pull together a few basic dress-up items and props and he’ll happily play hero for hours—no wings or super powers required. 

Imaginative Play Firefighter Props

Possible Props for Pretend Play

  • Dress-up clothing (an actual firefighter costume, or a DIY version items like a raincoat, wide-brimmed hat, yellow or black pants, suspenders, and rubber boots)
  • Small garden hose
  • Assorted toy props (toy fire extinguisher, goggles, small flashlight, walkie-talkies, even a stuffed Dalmatian if you have one)
  • Cardboard fire truck (see instructions below)\


Simply set out your materials and encourage your child to defend the neighborhood! Sound effects—a whoosh of water, a wailing siren, or a roaring engine—are encouraged. Free play is fabulous, but if he starts to run out of steam, suggest situations that a firefighter might face: Have him use the hose to put out a “forest fire” (a.k.a. your houseplants) or he can rush in to save his stuffed lovies from a “blaze” on the couch.

Toddler boy pretending to spray fire hose

Playful Add-Ons

Make a cardboard fire truck in three easy steps:

  1. Take two large cardboard boxes (one should be slightly smaller than the other) and cut off the flaps.
  2. Turn the larger box on its side and insert the smaller box to form a truck shape (see photo if you need a visual for reference).
  3. Decorate the box using colored butcher paper, construction paper, cardstock, colored tape, paint, markers, or a combo. Use two overturned red plastic cups as lights (because every good fire truck needs lights!)—and for extra fun, add a bell!

Enlist a bucket brigade

If you have a crew of kiddos, line them up and show them how people fought fires—i.e., passing buckets of water from person to person, from water source to fire, and back again—before fire trucks existed. If outside, pint-sized firefighters can use actual water, starting at a faucet and ending up on some thirsty plants! If inside, use a bucket to scoop Legos® from one container, pass the bucket down the line, and end by pouring the Legos into a laundry basket (or other container) that represents a pretend fire.

Take a field trip

Check with your local firehouse to see if they allow scheduled visits so your kiddo can experience the real deal. Even better, see if there are any upcoming open houses. These community events tend to last longer than a normal visit, involve lots of department personnel who can answer questions, and may include other special bells and whistles, like listening to a fire truck’s siren.

Learning we love

There’s a lot more to pretend play than just fun and games—it’s also a great way to teach small children about important real-world topics (like fire safety). For tips on how to start that conversation in an age-appropriate way, check out the Sesame Street Fire Safety Program, a collaboration between the U.S Fire Administration and the Sesame Workshop.

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